We live in an age where the rich get to buy their way to the front of the line. And, Linda McQuaig writes, they are pushing to have that privilege extended to medical care:
The push for private, for-profit medicine really got going after the Chrétien Liberals deeply cut federal health-care funding in 1995. Ottawa had contributed 25 per cent of total health spending in 1977, but that contribution dropped down to just 9.8 per cent by the late 1990s, leaving the provinces reeling and sending hospital wait-times climbing.
Advocates of private health care eagerly moved in, and have been a loud part of the public debate ever since.
Since the late 1990s, Ottawa has been increasing the federal contribution, restoring it to about 23 per cent today. Now the Trudeau government, roughly following the course laid out by Stephen Harper, plans to slow the growth of the federal contribution. The provinces insist the Liberal offer would reduce the federal share back down to about 20 per cent, leaving them struggling with rising health costs.
Canadians have long forgotten that, when medicare came into being, it was funded on a fifty-fifty basis -- with costs being shared equally between Ottawa and the provinces. What's interesting is how the costs of care have changed:
The publicly funded portion of our health-care spending -- doctors' fees and hospital stays -- has remained fairly stable as a percentage of GDP for more than 30 years. What is out of control is the part controlled by the private sector -- drugs, home care, physiotherapy, etc.
If we want to control health-care costs, we should extend the publicly funded portion, not open more services to the private sector. But that would require more public funding, which provincial and federal governments, after years of deep tax cutting, are reluctant to commit to.
The first logical step to curbing costs would be to establish a universal pharmacare program. But Big Pharma is working hard to see that doesn't happen. And advocates for private health care are working just as furiously as climate change deniers. If they can undermine public faith in medicare, they will be home free -- while the planet burns.