Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Father of Canadian Health System Says It's In "Crisis"

The June 25, 2008 edition of Investor's Business Daily has an interesting article on the father of Canadian health care, Claude Castonguay, and his current views. Here are a few excerpts:
Canadian Health Care We So Envy Lies In Ruins, Its Architect Admits

...Back in the 1960s, Castonguay chaired a Canadian government committee studying health reform and recommended that his home province of Quebec -- then the largest and most affluent in the country -- adopt government-administered health care, covering all citizens through tax levies.

...Four decades later, as the chairman of a government committee reviewing Quebec health care this year, Castonguay concluded that the system is in "crisis."

"We thought we could resolve the system's problems by rationing services or injecting massive amounts of new money into it," says Castonguay. But now he prescribes a radical overhaul: "We are proposing to give a greater role to the private sector so that people can exercise freedom of choice."

...What would drive a man like Castonguay to reconsider his long-held beliefs? Try a health care system so overburdened that hundreds of thousands in need of medical attention wait for care, any care; a system where people in towns like Norwalk, Ontario, participate in lotteries to win appointments with the local family doctor.

Years ago, Canadians touted their health care system as the best in the world; today, Canadian health care stands in ruinous shape.

Sick with ovarian cancer, Sylvia de Vires, an Ontario woman afflicted with a 13-inch, fluid-filled tumor weighing 40 pounds, was unable to get timely care in Canada. She crossed the American border to Pontiac, Mich., where a surgeon removed the tumor, estimating she could not have lived longer than a few weeks more.

The Canadian government pays for U.S. medical care in some circumstances, but it declined to do so in de Vires' case for a bureaucratically perfect, but inhumane, reason: She hadn't properly filled out a form. At death's door, de Vires should have done her paperwork better.

...Americans should know that one of the founding fathers of Canada's government-run health care system has turned against his own creation. If Claude Castonguay is abandoning ship, why should Americans bother climbing on board?
The author of this article, Canadian physician David Gratzer and author of The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care, makes many excellent points.

One point that deserves further emphasis is the fact that the economic failures of the Canadian system are due to their fundamentally flawed premise -- that health care should be a "right". This point has to be explicitly challenged (and rejected) before genuine free market health care reform can take root in this country.