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Two Tier Health Care

It's here, apparently. Maclean's cover story for May 01 2006 is a "Guide to Privatized Health Care". Reading the article (in the doctor's office, natch -- or should I say, the walk-in clinic office, because I don't have a family doctor, double natch) I got pretty scared. The article was totally unironically positive about the prospect of people having the freedom to pay thousands of dollars for cataract surgery, cancer treatment ($9K per treatment) , prostrate surgery (only $22K!), etc. Of course, they did the snow job about fully-public care being outdated thinking no longer supported by Canadians, and how Quebec is oh-so-progressive for going beyond "American vs Canadian" thinking, favouring European models instead.

I don't know what to think, so I'll just be depressed. Health care has been broken in Canada for some time now, but for me this article marked a turning point of some kind. There's no pretending any more.

It seems that two-tier care is building up, complete with insurance companies and referrers and U.S. companies setting up shop near the border to poach business from wealthy and suffering Canadians (because, you know, they've already cured all the sick people in the US). That's fine, I guess -- it may even be necessary -- but I don't think it addresses the basic fears Canadians have long had about privatized health care:

0. Will the quality of public services decline even further as rich people use private services and lobby to reduce taxes for public health services they don't use?

1. Will most of the best doctors go to the private sector?

2. Will the public sector be left to deal with all of the "hard" health care cases that are not profitable for the private sector to deal with?

3. Will there be even less emphasis on holistic health care and disease prevention? Will there be more? Is there hope for cheapening health care by reducing our dependence on high-technology solutions to health issues?

4. Will there come a time when certain people are prohibited from getting treatments because they can't afford services?

5. Will we end up with the horrible HMO situation that is going on in the States? How will we prevent this given their lobbying power? Should we be trying to prevent this?

This is such a frustrating issue. There's an entire side of responsibility which annoys me (not that I should talk, given all the carbs I eat). There's the question of how much care is necessary. There's the question of how well those European models are working. There's the big shadow of the US hanging over all this. There is the frustrating love affair Canadians have with their image of fully- public health care.

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders whether healthcare was sabotaged. Alternatively, maybe this is the inevitable result of socialist care systems?

I wonder whether this Maclean's article will spark a furor?

In other news, my doctor's visit was uninspiring. I'm glad I went -- I haven't had an annual checkup for five years -- but the doctor's routine did seem cursory. I ended up bringing the matter of my fatness myself, and he more-or-less shrugged them off. Maybe that means I'm hypochondriac. Maybe I'm disappointed that the checkup was so low- tech, and the doctor did exactly what he was supposed to. I don't know how to tell.

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