COLUMN: All-in on Unfinished Health Care System

SOUTH DUNDAS — Our health care system, as started in the 1960’s under initiatives between the provinces and the federal government under Lester B. Pearson, has never been finished. After the initial creation of the system, it has been left to meander along with no clear direction, and as such has deviated from the ideals it was founded on. Now our health care system has become the mechanic’s jalopy, something to be tinkered with, but only if it doesn’t cost more money. If something needs money or attention in the system, we rob Peter to pay Paul to do it. That is not what the goal of our modern system of health care was to be.

When the provincial leaders and the federal government got together and hammered out the details of this system, what was created was only to be the first-part of a broad system of health benefits. Planned initiatives was to include pharmaceutical coverage, and even some form of dental coverage.

Flash forward 50 years to the present, and we have a system that is degrading. Administration costs and bureaucracy are through the roof, taking money from front-line care. Provincial governments are using doctors as straw-men (and women) to promise “fiscal restraint”. A person can go years without finding a family doctor, and the system to get a doctor is so convoluted that it’s easy to see why some get discouraged and quit looking. Every year, provinces de-list certain services covered to make the budgets balance. Yes some provinces are in better shape than others, but overall the health care system is on life support.

Many argue that we should go the route of the United States and allow user-pay. This writer has thought that too. But what if we did it the other way around, and double-down, go all-in?

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal stated that the costs of implementing a Universal Drug Plan are under one billion dollars per year. The effect it would have on drug costs in this country, would be to cut prices up to 1/5th of what is paid now for many medications. But the real benefit, is that those who financially stretch themselves to pay for medications needed, would have some breathing room in their budget.

Should we also go one step further and have a Universal Dental Plan? Just as medication costs would go down due to a Universal Drug Plan, it stands to reason that dental care would too. It is scientifically proven that poor dental health leads to a host of health issues. Once an issue has reached the point where it is covered by the health care system, it is a far more serious and far more expensive to treat.

According to the Canadian Association of Public Health Dentistry(CAPHD), 62% of Canadians have private dental insurance, which sounds great, except that 38% don’t have any coverage. The CAPHD also states that 53% of people between the ages of 60 and 79 do not have any coverage, and that 50% of lower income adults do not have coverage. Dental coverage is expensive, and like many other things nowadays, tough choices in what family budgets pay for occur.

If we are to continue having a publicly-funded, publicly-run health care system, should it not include the entire spectrum of health care? Should our health care system become more inclusive, focusing on preventative medicine, treating issues before they get bad, and making sure people do not go into considerable debt to pay for medications?

Regular readers know that this writer leans more to a libertarian, small-government way of thinking. But if we are going to have a service that is paid for by the people through taxation, it should be done right, and be inclusive. If we are paying for a Cadillac system, we should not be getting a Pinto in return, a system of bare-minimums.

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