Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Canada Gets Hip

Krugman and Wells are behind the curve, says Dr Brian Day:

...Dr. Day, a surgeon, is the medical director and president of Cambie Surgical Centre. These days, he has much to celebrate -- including Canada's shifting view of private medicine.

....The personal success of Brian Day reflects the remarkable change in Canadian attitudes toward private medicine. Not that long ago, of course, "private" couldn't be used in the same sentence as medicare. So-called experts touted our public health care system as the envy of the world. And while they reluctantly admitted there were some problems, they argued that everything could be fixed with new public money. Talk of private health care was dismissed as "Americanization."

Some in academia still speak in these terms. But most don't. Last June, the Supreme Court of Canada had a harsh appraisal of medicare, declaring: "access to a wait list is not access to health care."

The Justices' decision -- involving a patient awaiting a hip replacement in Quebec -- has up-ended the debate. Call it the hip that changed history. ....

But private medicine expands. Every week, one new private clinic opens in Canada. Dr. Day estimates that 50,000 British Columbians alone use some type of private health service every year, mainly diagnostics.

And it's part of a larger trend. Quebec recently announced a health-care guarantee for hip and knee replacements that will almost surely see thousands of procedures performed in private clinics (but with public funding). The Premier of British Columbia toured a variety of European countries to better understand how to blend private and public systems. Alberta's Premier Ralph Klein muses again about private medicine.

....It's not simply Dr. Day's clinics that offer queue-busting care for a price. Across the country, and in particular in Quebec, Canadians can opt out of the lengthy wait lists of the public system.

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