An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
PUBLIC HEALTH CARE scored a victory in court with the rejection of an attempt by Dr. Brian Day to have legislation that prohibits double billing struck down.
A victory for the system, yes, but do patients win anything from this?
Day has been fighting the issue for years. He says people frustrated by long waiting times should have the option of paying for medical procedures.
Those who oppose him say legalizing private care would destroy the current system that bases care on need, not the ability to pay.
But, really, who would it hurt? If someone is unable to receive timely treatment within the system, but can afford to pay for it themselves, why shouldn’t they have that opportunity?
The argument that doing so would somehow deprive others of necessary care assumes that they would be pushed to the back of the line. But it’s arguable whether private care would make the lineup shorter or longer. The public system is in deep trouble, and any help it can get would benefit everybody.
One argument in favour of private health care is that it would expand choice. Another is that, far from promoting abuses, private health care would create efficiencies. In theory, at least, private health care would operate with less bureaucracy.
The most compelling aspect of private care, though, might be the economic argument. Health care is the biggest expense line within provincial budgets, and costs keep increasing exponentially, yet the system can’t keep up with demand.
Private care would remove some of those costs and make the public system healthier. As former health minister Terry Lake once pointed out, 30 per cent of health care is already private anyway.
The B.C. Court of Appeal decision is, of course, a reflection of current law and constitutional considerations. But setting aside legalities, and considering only what would be best for patients, the question remains: who really won, and who lost?
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.