Blogs & Comment

Canadian health care system needs reform

A new Fraser Institute study says there’s a need to introduce measures that deliver more bang for the buck.

Given long waiting times for operations, pervasive shortages in medical equipment and other instances of rationed resources, we might suspect our public health-care system is not delivering as much bang for the buck as it should. Confirmation of this state of affairs was recently provided by a research study, Value for Money from Health Insurance Systems in Canada and the OECD (2012 edition), from Vancouver-based think tank the Fraser Institute.

Authors Mark Rovere and Brett J. Skinner found that although Canada is one of the biggest spenders on national health care within the 27-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it nevertheless ranked below average on most of the indicators measuring availability of medical resources and services. Of particular note, Canada was in the bottom quartile for the number of:

  • practicing physicians per 1,000 population
  • CT scanners per million population
  • tonsillectomy procedures per 100,000 population
  • percutaneous coronary interventions (second last)
  • hip replacement procedures per 100,000 population
  • acute care beds per 1,000 population (tied for last)
  • lithotriptors per million population

Rovere writes: “Canadian taxpayers are not getting good value for money from their health insurance. Governments should consider reforms such as patient cost-sharing, competition, and private insurance options. Other developed countries produce better value for money from these sensible policies and Canada should follow suit.”

I’m inclined to agree. Canada is behind the times when it comes to balancing equity and efficiency in its public health services. Only Canada and three other OECD countries have no patient cost-sharing, where at least a nominal fee is charged to patients to minimize frivolous visits. Furthermore, Canada is the only country not to allow comprehensive, private insurance plans (includes coverage for doctors and hospital use, not just dental and drugs).

The demographic reality is this: The Baby Boom generation is headed into its sunset years, when health problems come to the fore. In addition, Canada has attracted through its open immigration policy a good number of elderly immigrants who will require various medical treatments. Unless corrective measures are taken, health-care queues and shortages will likely get worse.