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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Canada’s Health Care System in Crisis

Those Americans who favor a single-payer health care system have often considered Canada a great success in providing quality health care while controlling costs. Canadians are now questioning both, especially the cost. The provinces, which contribute a significant portion of those costs, are considering ending some services and curtailing others, because ballooning costs have exposed the present system to be unsustainable.

Under pressured from an aging population and the urgent requirement to control increasing budget deficits, Canada’s provinces are promulgating tough measures to curb health care costs, which could erode the principles of the state-funded system:

1.Ontario began a fierce battle with drug companies and pharmacies when it said it would cut generic drug prices by 50% and eliminate “incentive fees” to generic drug manufacturers.

2.British Columbia is doing away with block grants to hospitals and replacing them with fee-for-procedure payments.

3.Quebec has established a flat health tax and has proposed instituting a payment program for each medical visit.

4. Several provinces are now experimenting with private funding for hip, knee, cataract, and other surgical procedures.

And since senior citizens will make up 25% of the population by 2036, there will likely be more changes as the provinces, responsible for delivering health care, deal with their demands.

Is the current system unsustainable? The system has long wait times and high rationing hurdles for expensive services, those most likely to be used by the elderly. Costs have increased well above inflation, at 6% a year. Canada’s system has trouble with instituting new technologies and treatments while coping with arbitrary allocations made by the political process. Thus, the care for seniors will likely be hardest hit in this looming financial crisis.

Source: Ed Morrissey, “Canada reconsidering health care model in face of soaring costs,” HotAir.com, June 1, 2010; and Claire Sibonney, “Soaring costs force Canada to reassess health model,” Reuters, May 31, 2010.

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