Jun 8, 2010, 5:11 AM
Post #1 of 1
Having lived under a single-payer healthcare system for the past 25 years I have some understanding of how such a system is doomed to failure in a society that’s rapidly aging. Back in 1984 when the Canada Health Act was first adopted, Canada’s politicians believed that healthcare should be free for everyone. The fact that it was already nearly “free” did not deter these stalwarts from enacting this legislation; nor did anyone back then imagine that the country’s population would age as rapidly as it has and how the ramifications of this fact would affect the costs of a single payer healthcare system.
Single payer government healthcare system unsustainable
Over the past two decades wait times for treatment, scarcity of primary care physicians and the de-listing of numerous medial treatments have become a portent for the future of single-payer healthcare. Currently the Canadian healthcare system accounts for close to 50% of all provincial spending and in some provinces for more. Yet many Canadians are opposed to a system where the patient pays even a token amount for medical care. There is a large body of the population that sees “free” healthcare as a basic human right. What these individuals have not considered is that anything “free” has no value and as such holds no esteem. What’s more, simple arithmetic will quickly bring even the most ardent supporter of any government healthcare monopoly to the conclusion that in an aging society this model is totally unsustainable.
All it takes is a look at the numbers. Today the median age in the province of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is 40. In the next decade the median age is expected to increase to 42. The significance of this increase lies in the fact that as individuals age their need for healthcare increases. Since baby boomers are aging at 2.5 times the rate of the rest of the population, the so-called “pig in the Python” is making its way toward old age.
This in itself would not be overly onerous if we had a sustainable birth rate. But the truth is that we are aborting more children than are being born, as Canada’s birthrate currently stands at 1.4 babies per female, a figure far below that required to maintain a stable population. And to add to this supreme of ironies, abortion is an integral part of the “reproductive healthcare” offered by the government healthcare monopoly. Today it is not uncommon for four grandparents to have a total of two children with a combined total of one grand child.
While healthcare expenditures in Canada average about $2,600 per citizen per year, people over 60 incur about $6,000 per year in healthcare costs and geriatric patients, those in the 70s, 80s and older incur some $12,000 per year on average. Since people are living a lot longer because of advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles, the bulk of our population will be older people who are retired with fewer people of working age to pay the accelerating costs of healthcare.
This is one of the reasons that Ontario’s Liberal government commissioned a report by Don Drummond and Derek Burleton, both economists for TD Bank. The report, titled “Charting A Path to Sustainable Health Care in Ontario,” basically warns that Canada’s aging population will eventually bankrupt the government healthcare monopoly. Many observers see it as the initial rationale for cutting back healthcare services to the elderly. While Obamacare was working its way through Congress, there was much talk about so-called “death panels,” which ostensibly were committees comprised of government regulators responsible for calculating whether medical treatment for certain elderly patients was worth the expense.
While no one in the Ontario government has openly advocated the creation of such regulatory bodies, it isn’t beyond the pale of politicians and bureaucrats to view them as a simple solution. In order to “fix” the healthcare system both in Canada and soon in the US it is important for politicians to stop using the concept of universal healthcare as a way to buy votes.
If such regulatory government panels were established to ration healthcare and deprive the elderly of certain treatment because of a cost/benefit consideration, it would be the most supreme irony in that the elderly had spent their entire lives paying taxes and supporting all these government initiatives for which they’d been paying throughout their working lives only to be deprived of some of the benefits.
Healthcare costs can be contained if the private sector is sufficiently stimulated to participate in a competitive marketplace. There is also a place for healthcare paid for by the government, but individuals should have the choice and the responsibility to look after their own care. A judicious mix of competitive private health insurance coupled with a government healthcare program that provides healthcare on a fee-basis rather than “free” care will ensure that everyone’s basic healthcare needs are met. As a side benefit we could all enjoy a lower tax burden.
Klaus Rohrich is President and Creative Director of Taylor/Rohrich Associates Inc., a marketing and advertising firm that specializes in niche marketing retirement real estate developments
(This post was edited by klaus on Jun 8, 2010, 5:17 PM)