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  • Writer's picturerealcanadianliberal

Alberta needs private health care delivery, not private health care funding.

Albertans, particularly those in Health Care, would do well to stop bashing Jason Kenney and the UCP long enough to consider the ignorance of their arguments. Defending our health care model in the face of ever expanding costs and extremely poor provision is utterly illogical. Defending our antiquated health care model is, quite literally, defending the indefensible.

Before you decide to take to social media to hammer Jason Kenney or the UCP on Health Care, take 5 seconds to consider this uncomfortable reality; had Jason Kenney’s family lived in Germany, Switzerland or the Netherlands, there is a very good chance that Jason’s father would not have died while waiting for treatment. This is not to say that he wouldn’t have died later on, but his chances for survival would have been much better.

I am an Albertan who lived in the UK for 21 years. While I lived in the UK in the late 1990s, the discussions we’re having right now in Alberta were tearing Brits apart arguing about whether their National Health Service would be destroyed by the introduction of private health care provision. Waiting lists for many procedures had become unnecessarily long, many lost jobs/businesses while sitting at home in pain waiting for ‘elective’ surgeries that were actually ‘essential’ for them to continue to work and provide for their families. There were several cases where people died because diagnosis and/or treatment was not fast enough. All problems that were less of an issue in every nation of the G20 except for . . . . you guessed it; CANADA!

Those ‘against’ argued that the less well-off would suffer from reduced service, health care workers would suffer wage reductions/job losses, hospitals would close, etc, etc. Those ‘for’ argued that everyone would still get the same health care provision from the NHS but that it would become more efficient, wealthy individuals would elect to pay for private treatment and remove themselves from waiting lists thus speeding up treatment for the less wealthy. In the end, the ‘for’ argument won. A ‘two tier’ health care system was adopted, with a publically funded and publically provided health care system backed up by a privately funded and privately provided system. Well, not quite, because the UK Parliament set waiting time limits on many procedures, which forced the NHS to contract out many procedures if they could not meet the stipulated waiting time limits. So, publically funded/provided, supported by publically funded/privately provided, supported by privately funded/provided health care.

Surprise, surprise, it worked. Well, better than a purely public system anyway. In 2010 I ended up having a surgery provided by a contracted private surgeon and his staff, in an NHS hospital, using an operating room vacant because NHS staffing couldn’t keep it operating full time. I got this surgery 3 months faster than I would have only 15 years previously. In my case, it wasn’t a government waiting time limit that pushed the speed, but the military saying that they couldn’t afford to have an experienced officer unfit for deployment for an extended period. Different criteria, same result.

Yet informed Brits still look on in Health Care envy toward every G20 country except . . . Canada and the US. That’s right, we’re the hub of Health Care failure right here in North America. We continue to have a binary Canada vs US health care model argument, while ignoring all the health care systems in Western Europe that are 50 years more advanced than our own. Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands all have health care systems that are more effective and more efficient than our system in Alberta.

I’ve had the good fortune to have also been treated in a German hospital. Clean, fast, efficient and UNIVERSAL! That’s right, all three of the countries I mention have UNIVERSAL health care provided by PRIVATE providers. They have a public funded system and much more regulation than the US (which is the best health care system in the world if you have one of the 10 most deadly cancers . . . and bucket loads of money), which says to anyone who has examined the European systems that public FUNDING and private PROVISION has proven to be the most efficient and effective health care model in the world.

I know of one 85-year German who became sick in Alberta recently while visiting his son. After being hospitalized in Alberta for a month, a German doctor flew to Alberta, reviewed his case, then personally escorted him back to Germany, where he spent a couple more weeks in a German hospital OF HIS CHOICE until he was well enough to go home. The cost to this man for this service . . . nothing! All covered under the German national health insurance system.

In Germany, the poor pay nothing. Above a certain threshold, they pay a % of their salary toward health, starting off at around 0.5%. Payment is on a progressive scale that caps at a high income (130k Euros) with the average German paying around 8% of their salary on health care. Switzerland, considered by many to have the world’s best health care system, cap insurance premiums at about 8% of an individual’s gross salary. If premiums cost more than that, the government covers the excess.

Albertans spend almost the same per capita as Germany on health care. We spend less than the Swiss and the Dutch, but only marginally. However, we get significantly poorer care for the money we spend. The difference is in delivery. Germany’s public/private spending ratio is higher than ours by about 14% (84% public, 16% private compared to 70%/30%), but delivery is almost entirely private. Germans enjoy greater choice in medical solutions, greater choice in hospitals, better preventative health care and better post-procedure and palliative care, and all for the same money we spend in Alberta.

Why are we resisting better health care? Have you ever heard of a poor and destitute German doctor or Swiss nurse? I have yet to meet a German or Swiss doctor or nurse who would trade their system for ours because that would be trading one of the best health care systems in the world, for the very worst in the G20. You couldn’t pay my German cousins enough to accept our health care system.

My personal doctor, a South African, would privately admit that our system ‘sucks’. We are witnessing a massive systemic failure and Alberta’s health care professionals are confusing the public’s anger at our health care system with an anger at them. Most Albertans aren’t angry at our dedicated professionals, we’re angry that our system of delivery is so antiquated, inefficient and ineffective. We spend as much of our hard-earned money on health as the Germans do and we want the same quality of health care. Our system is the problem so please join in and become part of the solution.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best is now. Jason Kenney and the UCP just want to plant a tree now, rather than wait another 20 years and then look at the unnecessary suffering of Albertan’s over that 20 years and regret our inaction. If you are a health care professional and think Jason Kenney is inexpert about Health Care, then get involved and become an agent of change. Help us transition to a more efficient and effective health care system.

If, tomorrow, Jason Kenney told us that we’d have to spend 10% more on health care but that the result would be German or Swiss standard health care, most of us ‘conservatives’ would open our wallets and pay up. We don’t mind spending money on health care, we simply insist on getting value for our spending.

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