In politics there are elephants ( or sacred cows, depending on your party affiliation). Municipal politics have them, federal politics have them, and of course with the election, provincial politics have them as well.
Yet nobody wants to address the elephant. In fact, the parties are doing their best to convince us all the elephant doesn’t exist at all.
So what’s the elephant I talking about? Health care spending of course.
Each party is doing their best to promise more and more spending than the other.
“We’ll hire 200 doctors and 1,000 nurses”
“We’ll hire 300 doctors and 1,500 nurses”
“We’ll hire 300 doctors and 1,500 nurses, and they’ll each be able to cure all your ailments by winking at you”
The NDP is running their campaign using scare tactics of filmon era cuts and their latest commercial seems to indicate that health care spending should not be questioned:
(Of course they don’t tell you that Nurse Betty Loewen was/is a nurses union leader, but I digress)
Health care spending has increased dramatically during the NDP tenure. It was 34% of core government spending in 1997-1998 ($1.9 Billion of $5.6 Billion). It’s increased to 44% of core government spending in 2010-2011 ($4.8 Billion of $10.8 Billion).
If this keeps up, we’ll be over 50% of core government spending by 2018. This is clearly NOT sustainable. And yet, with an aging population, it’s reasonable to expect the increase in health care spending to accelerate.
And what do we have the parties promising? New equipment, which is great and would get purchased as course of business anyway. More doctors. More nurses, helicopters, everything under the sun.
However, nobody has the balls to come out and say the current situation isn’t sustainable. Some serious work has to be done here, and by serious I’m dismissing the Romanow report and its “spend more on health care” conclusion that anyone could tell would be the result when it was revealed Roy Romanow would be the report’s author.
Do we need private health care? I don’t think we do, but I do think we need a proper analysis of the idea.
What about better efficiencies in ERs ( I remember getting an x-ray and the dr. taking 3 trips to see me to get this set up because he didn’t carry the x-ray request tickets with him)?
What about a trade off? Yes, you can have public health care, but you must submit to a mandatory physical annually. Here’s your date and time -can’t make it? No health care coverage ( of course this would require some legislation to allow people time off from work?)
How about focusing on the preventative? It’s cheaper to be proactive than reactive?
What about a sin tax? Super Big gulp? 3% health care tax.
Benchmark to other provinces?
Pay to have people undergo procedures in other jurisdictions if it can be cheaper and faster?
How about NOT promising nurses they will always be the no lower than the 4th highest paid in Canada? ( not trying to diss Nurses, but that was a stupid wage concession)
You know what the other problem with health care increasing as a proportion of total gov’t core spending?
It takes away from other government areas. And in most cases, increased spending in these other areas can lead to decreased health care costs.
Social Services suffers
Safety and security suffers
And as a result of these areas suffering, health care spending increases.
I don’t know what the answers are. I do know what the answer isn’t. The answer isn’t “Spend more money” despite how the NDP would like you to believe otherwise. We need to do some serious looking into ways to reduce health care spending as a proportion of core government spending, without decreases in front line services.
But as long as the parties keep promising to outspend each other on health care, that will never happen. Instead, we’ll have 12 more years of people dying in ERs, brown envelopes, more of this:
Of course by the time anyone has the balls to stand up and identify the elephant, it will be too late.