Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Canada's Healthcare System is Doomed. Isn't It?

How long are Canadians going to put up with our much-vaunted but increasingly dangerous healthcare system? Almost daily, I read print commentary and blog posts by Americans who wish they had our system and who are trying to promote something similar in the United States.

They shouldn't. Stop. Think. Here's why they shouldn't follow our example:

Something that is 'free' is worth exactly what you pay for it. If you have access to something at any time, for any reason, and pay nothing for the privilege, it will eventually depreciate from its perceived value to its real value, which is zero. If you die while you are waiting for a 'free' doctor's appointment, 'free' surgery or a 'free' hospital stay, you will have received something which had zero value to you and for which you paid the ultimate price.

Think about it. In the early stages of such a system, with relatively few users as people get used to the idea of free healthcare, everything seems pretty good because demand hasn't yet caught up with supply. It will catch up, though. Demand will not only catch up with supply, it will eventually outstrip supply. When that happens, you will have what is the current state of health care in Canada.

I've written about this before. It already takes forever to get an appointment with some health specialists in Canada. Access to some sophisticated (CAT and MRI) equipment is already limited in many areas. Booking surgery is difficult. The situation is getting steadily worse, but unless it directly affects friends or family, no-one cares much.

I care. I have always cared, because I hate being forced to pay for anything where I have no choice but to participate and I can't shop competitively for the best cost/service combination. I care more all the time, because I am getting older and I don't want to be at the mercy of the state when I need health care.

Do you want to know how bad the situation is? Let's talk about hospital care under the Canadian healthcare system. In London, Ontario, beds are already scarce. My brother had hernia surgery, under general anesthesia, last week and was sent home the same day. Not too many years ago, he would have stayed in the hospital for up to a week, allowing doctors to monitor his progress and to make sure there were no complications. Now, it's in-and-out. And don't let the door smack you in the ass when you leave.

My brother is in his early fifties, with a wife and four kids who depend on him. He left the hospital and went home to bed, as instructed. He got up in the night to go to the bathroom. His wife and daughter awoke to a loud crash and ran to see what was the matter, expecting the worst. What they found was my brother, collapsed on the floor of the bathroom, with a serious wound on his head and apparently unconscious. His eyes were open, but he was unresponsive. His body was stiff. His wife and daughter thought that he had suffered a stroke and called for an ambulance. I'll skip a lot of other details and just tell you that he ended up back in the hospital, which he never should have left in the first place.

What happened? The way it was explained to my brother's wife was that a 'bubble' of whatever chemical was used as anesthetic was still in his bloodstream and when he got out of bed it knocked him out. To guard against a reoccurrence, he received a system 'flush' of four bags of plasma.

My brother could have died. He could have hit his head on the antique wood stove just outside the entrance to the bathroom. Suddenly there would have been no daddy for his children and no husband for his wife. And no brother for me. I have already lost two brothers to government stupidity (in Germany) and I do not want to lose another.

Ii is time for Canadians to realize that it is not going to get any better with our healthcare system. The baby boomers are all getting older and are going to be demanding more and more services from doctors and hospitals. More people are going to be using the system than are able to pay for it. Elementary math, folks, evident to anyone with a measurable IQ. Those who are content to suck at the teat of the state, without any notion of consequences, will get a rude shock someday.

There are two ways to solve the problem. Either:
  • Get rid of the entire system, pronto. Or,
  • Implement user fees to keep demand under control and to infuse some cash into the system.
Instituting a system of user fees would be quicker and less unsettling, in the short term, than to dump the system outright. To get some cash flowing into the system, I would suggest a fee of $10 or $15 every time someone visits a doctor. A hospital stay could cost, perhaps, a modest and perfectly reasonable $50 or $75 per day. People who demonstrably could not afford these fees could still be given a free ride.

Think about this: My great uncle died a couple of months ago at 102 years of age. My father died at age 94, partly because of a botched hernia operation. His brother is still alive and going strong at age 95. Odds are, I will be around for a long time. I will not be alone. Life expectancy is higher than it has ever been for both men and women. Who is going to pay for me and others like me as we retire and use more health care?

I'm ready to pay user fees. Other responsible people will be ready too.

I want to die a natural death, at a nice, ripe old age. I don't want to be killed by the health care system. I don't think you do either.


  1. Interesting to hear Canada's healthcare system is doomed as i thought it was the best health care system.

  2. Many Americans think that any 'free' health care system has got to be good. The problem is that nothing is truly free. Someone, somewhere, has to pay for it. In the hope of most proponents of such a system, it is the 'other guy,' or 'the rich,' who should pay the bills. This is short-sighted and stupid.

    What we have in Canada is a nation of takers running to the doctor every time there is a runny nose. It is 'free,' after all, to visit the doctor. People with real ailments often have to wait, especially for specialists. Surgeries are often delayed for so long that it is cruel and unusual punishment to the poor people who suffer unecessarily while they wait and wait and wait...