The Conference Board of Canada is the latest organization to try and scare Canadians out of public Medicare.
Launching the “Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care,” the Conference Board opens with a statement that is full of distortions of fact. This is not research, it’s propaganda.
In an op/ed, Anne Golden and David Stewart Patterson use every wrong cliché in the book to try and convince us that “if we continue to treat health care soley as an essential public service, as a sacred entitlement of Canadian citizenship, we are doomed to perpetuate the trend towards higher costs, higher taxes, longer lineups and wait times and growing frustration.”
It’s not hard to read between the lines that the Conference Board is challenging the right of Canadians to public access of quality health care.
The two ignore the fact that wait times have been coming down, that spending on health care has recently shrunk as a percentage of program spending and GDP, that taxes have been cut, particularly for corporations. They say the cost to the Federal government goes up by six per cent per year. But that’s because the Federal and Provincial governments agreed on such an escalator in part to rectify an imbalance between Federal and Provincial contributions to health care. They make the assumption that treating health as an essential service perpetuates higher costs. Would making health unessential make it any cheaper? This is ridiculous.
They say that the time has come to move beyond “rhetorical nostrums” but instead perpetuate their own out-of-date myths about the health care system. Like other propagandists, they prefer to use numbers from the height of the recession than more recent data in making their arguments.
The title “Canadian Alliance” suggests that it is the sum of a group of organizations working with the Conference Board. In reality, it is the Conference Board.
In its statement the Conference Board doesn’t do much to differentiate total health care spending and total public health care spending. They ignore their own charts that show countries with more public and less private health care tend to spend less. They ignore the fact that among the G7 nations, Canada is second only to the U.S. in the amount of private health care in the system.
They say we need to be more efficient, pointing to Japan as a model. It is hard to believe their business members would tolerate a government that bans profits for health insurance, aggressively sets the price of drugs, pays it professionals poorly and has the lowest rate of privatization.
Nor do we think the Conference Board would applaud if we concentrated more of our health system in hospitals, as the Japanese do. Japan has about three times as many beds per capita as Canada. Even with this, hospitals are crowded. There are shortages of obstetricians, anaesthesiologists and emergency room specialists due to low pay, long hours and high levels of stress. Japanese primary care doctors, according to the Washington Post, make up for low treatment fees through astonishingly high volumes, turning their clinics into assembly lines.
While Ontarians may not like Dalton McGuinty’s health care premiums, they would like Japan’s even less – it’s set a four per cent of income. Instead of an individual who earns $100,000 paying a premium of $600 here in Ontario, in Japan you would be paying $4,000.
The Conference Board also misleads by talking about rankings, not on actual numbers. The difference between the life expectancy of Canadians and the Japanese is two years. In the past decade life expectancy of Canadians has increased by close to three years.
There is no question we could do better in the delivery of health care. But please, let’s get a grip and have a debate based on some level of reality.