James Keller wrote this St. Catharines Standard (Oct.6, 2008) article, which, when you read it, was strangely mis-titled with the headline “Wait-time insurance seen as assault on health care”; yet, there are no details specifically describing any alleged "assault", just the usual leftist medicare hyperbole:
“A health insurance policy that sends people facing long waits for surgery to private clinics or the United States is the latest flash point for critics warning Canada is on a slippery slope toward for-profit health care.
But one health-care expert wonders whether there will be enough demand for such a service to have any impact on the public medicare system.
Calgary-based Acure Health Corp. has been quietly selling its so-called wait-time insurance for several years, but it made headlines recently after the British Columbia Automobile Association began offering the policy to its 800,000 members.
Under the policy, patients on waiting lists longer than 45 days for procedures ranging from MRI scans to heart bypass operations can be moved to private facilities in Canada or the U. S.
Opponents accuse the company of promoting queue-jumping and encouraging private clinics to poach public resources. B. C.'s health minister suggests the plan might be illegal.
But Prof. Terrance Sullivan, who specializes in health-care policy at the University of Toronto, says it's unlikely the insurance offers patients enough benefit to make much of a dent.
"I wouldn't rush to say that this is the nail in the coffin" of public health care, said Sullivan, who is also president of Cancer Care Ontario.
"The first question before you get to any sinister conclusions is: Is anybody going to buy this insurance?"
Acure started selling the policy as part of small group insurance plans in Alberta about three years ago. It has since expanded to B. C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, and now offers it to individuals through private insurance brokers.
The company says monthly premiums average about $100, climbing to $200 for someone over 70 buying family coverage.
The policy covers 135 medical conditions and hundreds of diagnostic tests. A client who is put on a waiting list longer than 45 days can file a claim to be moved to private care.
Canadians are already free to pay for treatment in the United States, but Sullivan says statistics suggest few actually do so.
"Every patient has the opportunity to cross the border and get private care, (but) despite what everybody says, the numbers are minuscule," he said.
This approach is the latest example of private care to be called an attack on the public health system.
Private diagnostic clinics have been offering tests such as MRI scans for years. Corporations often pay for physical examinations for executives.
The False Creek Surgical Centre, which opened in Vancouver in the mid-1990s, runs an emergency room that charges patients for care. The centre is allowed to operate because doctors at the facility don't also work in public facilities that bill the provincial health-care system.
There are other clinics in Vancouver and elsewhere in Canada that are either privately run and paid for by the public system, or charge patients directly for certain procedures.
Perhaps the most significant development in recent years was a 2005 Supreme Court of Canada decision striking down Quebec's ban on private health insurance for private care. That ruling permits patients to use private care when faced with long delays.
Jim Viccars of Acure brushes off concerns that he's eroding public health care, insisting his insurance plan complements rather than competes with the public system.
"It's the exact opposite of queue-jumping -- this product takes you out of the line, and you get your services done elsewhere, so people in the line actually move up," Viccars said.
"Wait lists are a blight, and people are suffering and dying on wait lists."”
Interesting comment from Sullivan, saying "Every patient has the opportunity to cross the border and get private care, (but) despite what everybody says, the numbers are minuscule.” But WHY SHOULD WE have to cross the border in the first place, in order to access timely medical care, which is unavailable in Canada due to failed utopian government-run health-care promises?
We shouldn’t be forced, in Ontario, for example, to pay enormous taxes to the Liberal-government-run health-monopoly, then be told that, oh well, if the system fails you, you can always go to the States.
Why should McGuinty’s socialized Liberal ideology interfere with a patient’s payer/provider choices at all?
Taking Ontarian’s tax money with promises of universal government-run health care, then saying oh,well, you can go across the border if we can’t deliver, is a bait-and-switch routine. Why should we be forced to pay all these health taxes to prop up the Liberal health-monopoly, then have to pay again to obtain care in another country?!
By the way, the article’s unnamed 2005 Supreme Court decision was the very significant Chaoulli decision in Quebec. McGuinty’s Ontario Liberals are facing a similar constitutional challenge now before the court, the McCreith/Holmes health care challenge.
Sullivan claims that the number of patients going to “cross the border…are miniscule.” Is it the U.S. border he’s referring to? And, what specifically are these numbers which he sees are “miniscule”? What is the source of his data?
Sullivan does say that this insurance policy development is not the nail in the coffin of public health care. This article is actually talking about SOLUTIONS to government-run health care schemes. Why wasn’t it headlined as such in the Standard? The headline could have more aptly read “Single-payer, universal, state-run health monopolies are an assault on actual health care” or, "Wait time insurance seen as solution to state-run medicare failures."
I wonder if MPP Jim Bradley and his merry band of Liberal health-care-monopolists will assault patient's rights by assaulting this wait-time insurance idea in Ontario.