End Ideological War in Healthcare

Media Appearances, Healthcare & Welfare, Frontier Centre

IT’S time to stop the ideological war over private health care, says a University of Winnipeg economist who has studied the ways other industrialized countries care for their citizens.

Forget the U.S. for a moment, where more than half the population has no health-insurance coverage.

Philippe Cyrenne is interested in European countries and Australia, where virtually everyone can access the health-safety net.

If he needed elective surgery, Cyrenne said France might be the best place to live. In France, Germany and Belgium, mutual aid societies created to help neighbours or co-workers through a crisis have evolved into multiple, mainly non-profit insurers.

All employed people split the costs of insurance with their employers and unemployed people have their own plan.

There are virtually no waiting lists and people have choices about the level of coverage they want, Cyrenne said.

Not that he doesn’t appreciate Canadian health care, where medical professionals are so well trained that they are in demand around the world.

Cyrenne outlined the results of his research yesterday at a breakfast sponsored by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

He said if Canada starts allowing more private health care, we will probably follow the model of the United Kingdom, Australia or Sweden, which have more similarities to the existing Canadian system than France does.

Those countries allow private hospitals to bill the government for services and patients pay at least nominal user fees.

Cyrenne predicts innovations will come from left-wing governments facing a budget crunch or provinces that Ottawa is not prepared to take on.

“Change will come from people who you least expect it to come from.”

Everything Alberta tries is a red flag to Ottawa, but Qu├ębec’s Liberal government is expanding private clinics, Cyrenne said.

He spoke to a small but influential audience, including former premier Duff Roblin and Heather Stefanson, health critic for the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba.

Cyrenne is not affiliated with either the right or left wing politically, but said he believes in universal access to health care.

Total expenditures on health in Canada and France are the same percentage of gross domestic product. Canadians actually spend a greater proportion of health dollars privately because French insurance programs cover drugs.

Canada ranks last in terms of the availability of MRI machines.

Cyrenne published a book last year on his findings: Private Health Care in the OECD: A Canadian Perspective.