Health care needs new ideas, not private money
The pandemic has once again spotlighted the deep inadequacy of our health care system. Filled-to-capacity hospitals and over-burdened long-term care homes were already a thing in Canada. Now, it’s a public policy colossus that is crying out for our attention, yet another reminder of the deep inadequacy of our health care system.
We are the only nation with a universal health care system that does not include universal drug coverage. Instead, prescription drugs, as with long-term care, fall under our two-tiered funding system. As for dental care, eye care and even physiotherapy, these are dominated by the private sector — and that’s something we must avoid expanding.
Writing in Policy Options last fall, Dr. Danyaal Raza suggested reasons for the private sector’s involvement. Since 1980, he noted, Canada’s corporate tax rate has been cut to 15 per cent from 36 per cent. During that same time, the income tax rate for the highest income earners dropped to 33 per cent from 43 per cent. Prior to 1990, 75 per cent of capital gains were taxed. Today, it’s 50 per cent.
While we acknowledge health care is underfunded, we would be remiss not to point out that money is easily sucked into the system, but too often, no one really knows where it goes.
Even more than new money we need a new way of doing things, like a recent proposal in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Dr. David Urbach and Dr. Danielle Martin wrote that family physicians typically refer patients to specialists with whom they have consulted before, despite knowing little about their current wait times. A “single-entry” referral program would help clear backlogs by sending patients to the next available provider in their region based, rather then relying on informal networks.
We have a base to build a better health care system. Let’s do so with public sector ingenuity for the greater good.