Friday, November 5, 2010

McGuinty's single-payer / two-tier health-care hypocrisy

Tom Blackwell wrote in "MRI services blur lines on for-profit health care" (National Post, Nov.5, 2010):

"Major Canadian hospitals are hosting for-profit services that sell speedy MRIs and CT scans to fee-paying patients, part of a surprising, parallel private health system that appears to stretch countrywide.

The businesses - at Mount Sinai and St. Michael's hospitals in Toronto and many others like them - say they are not violating laws that bar Canadians from buying medically necessary treatment, but taking advantage of a little-known quirk in medicare rules that allows "third parties" to seek care outside the public system.

The concept has long applied to workers' compensation clients, RCMP officers, military personnel and even prison inmates -- all of whom are effectively excluded from provincial health plans -- but recent interviews reveal that the third-party exemption now stretches much further.

Private auto and health insurers, law firms, sports clubs and individual employers and corporations are also being allowed to purchase expedited care for patients who normally would be prohibited from doing so.

An Alberta-based insurance company is selling policies to employers and individuals in the West, Ontario and Atlantic Canada that will provide patients expedited MRIs and CT scans and even speedy visits to a range of specialists if they face lengthy wait times in the public system.

Acure Health's service is possible because the bill is paid for by an insurer -- a third party -- but Jim Viccars, Acure's president, said his company is not stealing from the public system, only tapping into unused capacity.

"The reality is that the system right now is faltering under incredible burdens of demand, versus the ability to meet that with provincial revenue," he said. "This kind of program can alleviate a lot of that.... No one needs to wait in pain."

One Toronto man said he turned over $850 recently to get the MRI scan his doctor had recommended within two days, versus waits of up to two months for a taxpayer-funded scan on the same machine. Staff at the Mount Sinai third-party service told Greg Martin he just had to make sure it was paid for by a corporation, which happened to be his own computer-consulting business.

"The clinic questioned me... to make sure I had pre-printed company cheques and to make sure it was a legitimate company," said Mr. Martin, who would like to see more private medicine. "We obviously need to support the public system, but if people can afford to pay for it, then let them."
Some of the third-party diagnostic imaging services are offered by private companies that use publicly owned equipment within hospitals part-time, some by the hospitals themselves and at least one in Ontario is a privately owned MRI suite within a public hospital, St. Michael's.

At Mississauga's Trillium Health Centre, a representative for the hospital's service told an anonymous caller a patient can get an MRI or CT scan in three days or faster, and have it paid for by a corporation.

"Even if it's your own company and your own money in a sense, if it's the company that's making the decision for your wife, that's the way we need to do it, so it looks like it's a legitimate sort of expense for the company," the employee said.

It all adds another twist to the continuing debate about Canada's single-tier system and the seemingly expanded role being played by private medicine. The phenomenon is particularly striking in Ontario, where the Liberal government actually converted several private imaging clinics to non-profit facilities in 2004, saying "MRI services will be driven by community need, not by profit."

David Jensen, a spokesman for the Ontario Health Ministry, said yesterday the province funds hospitals and clinics to provide a certain number of hours of medicare scanning service. Outside those hours, they are free to use the machines to provide "uninsured" services, those that do not fall under the provincial health plan.

It would seem, though, that third-party customers are often funding care that would normally be covered by medicare. And some critics argue that is a potential threat to the integrity of universal health care.

"It's relentless: Medical entrepreneurs trying to exploit the system for money ... it easily escalates out of control, so you lose single-payer, universal access," said Michael McBane, spokesman for the union-backed Canadian Healthcare Coalition. "It's the thin edge of the wedge ... If they don't get beaten back, they will grow like a cancer."

One diagnostic-imaging entrepreneur catering to third parties, however, said the exemption makes perfect sense, allowing employers to get sick or injured staff back in the saddle sooner

"I don't think it's a loophole: This is well considered," said Bruce Bronfman of Ontario MRI Centres, which operates the services at Mount Sinai and at Toronto's Humber River Regional Hospital. "It's important for the Ontario economy."

For Trillium, the third-party service uses machines when they would otherwise be idle, while providing crucial funding for public care, more work for radiologists and added job security for technologists, said Larry Roberts, a spokesman for the Ontario hospital.

Private companies and others catering to third parties say the bulk of their business comes from workers' compensation, car-accident victims funded by insurers and federal police or the military.

At Halifax's Healthview Medical Imaging, which owns its own private MRI clinic, about 20% of patients have their scan paid for by others, such as workplace health plans, or actually pay out of their own pockets.

For $800, patients get a scan within three to five business days, compared to waits of up to six months in Nova Scotia's public system, said Dr. Derrick McPhee, a radiologist who works full-time on the public side and after hours for Healthview.

Dr. McPhee argues the company actually helps medicare by taking thousands of patients off waiting lists annually."

Once again, the lying McGuinty government's Liberal health care duplicity has been revealed.

Let's see Liberal health-care-monopoly pushing hacks such as Jim Bradley and Deb Matthews explain their monopolist system's convenient contradictions, where they bleat on sanctimoniously about the sanctity of "single-payer universal health-care" on one hand, yet allow the very same two-tier aspects which they claim to abhor!!

The two-faced Liberal liars!!

Jim Bradley and Deb Matthews would have voters believe that (hahaha) only Mike Harris is to blame for this; that Liberals - naturally - HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY OF IT!! (...see the new Boyle's law of Liberal political unaccountability for a demonstration of the inverse reaction to Liberal policy failures: the more that Liberals are to blame for anything - the more they screw up - the less they are held accountable for it; it's amazingly always 'not the Liberal's fault' - even when they hold a parliamentary majority!)

Remember back in 2007, when a 3,000 year-old mummy was given a CT scan in the Smitherman-McGuinty Liberal government's duplicitous health-care monopoly, while Ontario patients were being told they had months to wait?!

Or what about the time in 2004 when McGuinty's incompetent health minister George Smitherman (the well-shellacked loser in Toronto's Oct.2010 mayoralty race) along with St.Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley, proudly denied LifeLine Screening Clinic of Cleveland to bring portable preventative heart diagnostics to Ontario; when a fear-mongering Smitherman went ballistic, ridiculously deputizing Ontarians to stop them at the border?! (see: here pg.44-45, and here, and here, and here and here!)

Remember that smarmy Liberal idiocy?! How many people in Ontario could LifeLine's diagnostics have helped, at no cost to Ontario's treasury? And that proposed service - unlike the CT's and MRI's - was NOT encroaching on ANY 'enshrined single-payer health' aspects!

What smarmy bags of lying shit McGuinty's Liberals have shown themselves to be.

And of course, we also have good ole Mike McBane popping up in the story, blissfully oblivious to the fact that McBane and the failing socialism which he shills for ARE the cancer.

It's astounding how despotic mcbanists demean and despise patients who want to look after themselves. McBane can't quite answer how it is that in McBane's socialist-dream-single-payer-monopoly, patients are being told to wait months for a medical procedure or scan - while capacity sits otherwise UNUSED!!
Then, when patients pay to use the otherwise under-utilized capacity (...why is it underutilized in a monopoly? McBane and Matthews simply can't / won't answer that...) McBane accuses them of spreading cancer!!

It's the mcbanists who are spreading the ideological disease, and inherent inefficiency, of socialized monopolist health care.

All that mcbanists really want to do is stop patients from looking after themselves.
They like creating long lines, and then like to be in charge of 'fixing' those long line-ups which they helped create.
They abhor patient choice.
Mcbanists cannot stand the idea of patients leaving the line-up to spend their money on health care of their choice.
Mcbanists are the enemy of choice, and the epitomized embodiment of fifty-years-worth of failed Tommy Douglasonian single-payer health care idiocy.

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