Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sickly thoughts on health care

Home with the stomach flu -- ugh. I'm gaining a new appreciation for the restorative powers of BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and (dry) toast. I'm feeling a whole lot better after a day of rest and the bland diet. Enough so that I can manage to sit in front of the computer and check in with the world once again.

On the news today, I watched Obama's news conference in Canada with prime minister Stephen Harper. One interesting point -- when Harper said that the Canadian stimulus bill was very large but not approaching the size of the US stimulus package -- because Canadian health care doesn't need bailing out.

From the Orangeville Citizen:
We wonder whether he's aware of the fact that while Canada's medicare system had its beginnings in Saskatchewan under the leadership of a socialist premier who happened to be a Baptist minister, the most important step forward was agreement among the provinces that with federal financial aid they could operate their own programs that would be both universal and portable, so all Canadians can be covered even when they move to another province.

Perhaps Mr. Harper or Mr. Ignatieff might give their guest a few tips on the subject of federal-provincial relations, and even suggest he consider the idea of making universal health care a topic of a federal-state conference that would see him invite the 50 state governors to the White House for talks on jointly solving the current health care crisis.

The idea would be to have the governors agree to something similar to the U.S. Interstate Highway program devised by the Eisenhower administration half a century ago. Under that scheme, the impressive system of freeways and toll roads criss-crosses the 48 continental states with each state responsible for building and maintaining the roadways with the federal government contributing much of the costs.

Such an approach would no doubt lead to a wide variety of programs, with individual states deciding whether to offer a mix of public and private insurance options or simply to pick up the tab for those who couldn't afford the private-sector premiums.

However, if Ontario's experience is any indication, the public/private medley won't be cost effective.

Today, few Ontarians are aware of the attempt by the Conservative government of the day to give residents a choice between insurance from the private carriers and the Ontario Medical Services Insurance Plan (OMSIP). Not surprisingly, the private sector wound up with a disproportionate share of healthy Ontarians, saddling OMSIP with far too many with outstanding health problems.

The solution lay in OMSIP's replacement on Oct. 1, 1969, by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), which displaced all the private carriers for everything except supplemental coverage.

It's an idea that proved successful and today is employed in all 10 provinces, the only remaining differences being whether to finance health care through premiums or taxes and whether to cover some new medical procedures when experts cannot agree as to their effectiveness.

Can the US ever wrest itself from the private carriers and the pharmaceutical companies? Will 50 million uninsured folks ever receive affordable coverage? What I really don't understand is why it is so difficult for the people in charge to understand that health insurance costs are what is killing our industries. All because some people freak out at the term "socialized medicine."

Call me crazy, but I'd gladly give up my very decent school teacher health and retirement plans if all Americans could receive the same fair plans.

1 comment:

life insurance broker said...

I am selling health insurance as a (very small) part of my disability insurance business in Toronto, so I am a bit "insider". Our health care is working quite well, but sometimes you simply can't get what you want, even when you are willing to pay for it. Private insurance covers only some very limited services and it has been spreading just lately.
On the other hand - US government spends per capita almost the same sum of money as our government(s)! Where are all this money disappearing?
Take care
Lorne