Monday, September 22, 2008

The Conservative Health Care Plan

In the third part of my series on Canadian Health Care policy I’m discussing the Conservative party platform. Where the Green party’s platform was detailed but unrealistic (I would argue unobtainable), the Liberal party’s was non-existent the Conservative’s have made there health care plan an extension of their current time in power.

The platform is relatively straight forward. The conservatives have pledged to fund patient wait time guarantees, improve cancer care, continue investment in healthcare IT through Infoway Canada (created under the previous Liberal government), reduce toxic chemicals and funded increased positions for physician training.

The subtext, however, is a little more complicated. The reality of Canadian heath care is that access is limited at the discretion of the doctor or hospital depending on need (or occasionally who you know). The current Minister of Health for Canada was the previous Minister of Health for Ontario; Tony Clement. In his role as the provincial Health Minister he earned the nick name “Two-Tier Tony” by allowing privatization of clinics for MRI & CT (which where subsequently bought back by the next government).

Under the Canada Health Act billing for services that are insured under the public purse and/or extra billing is illegal (for a detailed discussion click here) punishable by loss of transfer funds from the federal to provincial governments. The federal government exercises’ it’s power by decreasing transfer payments when provinces allow dubious billing. However, penalties are rarely enforced and much smaller than the benefit from doing the practice. Unless, Provinces discourage the practices or there are federal penalties they can go on legally.

One could argue that the patient wait time guarantees encourage private clinics in order to meet the wait time mandates. Certainly, previous statements from the Conservative party lead one to believe that something will change. In my opinion, the current system is unsustainable without increased funding. The Conservatives are being forthright in their disclosure on how they plan to obtain that funding. I think user-fees would be a better route (because it would decrease use and increase funding) whereas private clinics increase funding but limit public health care personal hours. Still, other parties are promising the world with little substance to how they’ll deliver.

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