Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Comparing Health Care Platforms

Health is not exactly top of the agenda these days in spite of the fact that millions of Canadians have no GP and receive care through walk-in clinics and ERs, which provide no continuity and none of the advantages of one doctor knowing you and your ailments. The state of our economy determines how well Canada can fund health care. Too much debt equals too much interest equals less funds available for probably the biggest government expenditure. Medicare also saves businesses a ton of money as they don't have to pay a ton for health insurance like businesses in the US. This gives our companies a competitive edge. And finally a healthy populace is more productive and can pay taxes. An illness-riddled populace cannot work as much or at all and thus cannot pay taxes; instead they depend on the government for care and social support.

So. Health care is important to us as humans and to the country's economy and financial welfare.

The Conservatives promise nothing. Their website simply reiterates what they did these past two years. Have you noticed any improvements in your health care? Me neither. That could be because I live in Ontario, and Ontario is being short changed by the federal government.

Governments talk about wait times and wait time guarantees, but health care is more than knees and hips. Trying to reduce wait times and focusing on cancer has shortchanged care for people with non-sexy problems like gut diseases, shoulder injuries, mental illness, to name a very few. We need health care for all, not shift dollars from one area to another and then call it a triumph.

The Conservatives addressed the doctor shortage by increasing funding for new training spaces; but training takes time, and meanwhile there is a fount of doctors waiting to be licensed, doctors who are trained and competent enough to practice today. The shortage is critical, made worse by payments to doctors remaining so low that doctors are either refusing to provide parts of care or shortchanging patients in time or charging for anything and everything they can.

It's rather interesting the Conservatives list their version of other parties' platforms under their "plan." Their negative campaign has tentacles everywhere.

When I used to walk to university with my Dad, we'd talk health care. One of the things that used to get to him was that, because of medicare, his patients had access to diagnostic care, but were then unable to afford the medications to make them well again as medicare didn't cover drugs. Back then, he'd say what's the use of diagnosis if treatment was out of reach. The Green Party recognizes that and promises to create a national pharmacare program. They also recognize that more and more Canadians are receiving care through alternative medicine. And then they tie the environment to Canadians' health. Every year, we're warned that smog kills, and every year there's no relief except what the weather gives us. The Greens pledge to change that. As they did for the economy, they provide background, context for where we are now and for their health care platform. I find their platform pages interesting because they assume Canadians care enough to want to understand the issues and to read about them. The other parties simply give outlines, sound bites, assuming everyone has ADD and won't read longer than 30 seconds.

I couldn't easily find anything on health care on the Liberal website. Interesting. The Global website states that the Liberals will create a Doctors and Nurses fund to increase training, like the Conservatives, but they will also assist foreign-trained doctors to obtain Canadian qualifications. The latter needs to be done, but will be tough as the provinces are territorial over professional accreditation. I think this provincial territoriality is detrimental to Canadians but it's a reality the Liberals will have to deal with in order to achieve this promise. They will also do to catastrophic drug coverage what the government of the 1960s did for medicare: nationalize it. But there are an awful lot of us poor who are not on welfare and thus have to pay for medications out of pocket. The costs may not be catastrophic, but they're difficult to pay for, paid out of food budget, and taken in lower dosages, sans telling the doctor, to make it more affordable and get some treatment. The Liberals and Conservatives don't help us at all.

The NDP also promise to hire more doctors and nurses and provide direct incentive for medical students to go into family practice instead of a specialty. Like the Greens, they promise pharmacare, but they will start with catastrophic drug coverage like the Liberals. They will also reduce the costs of prescription drugs. We don't have the same cost issues that Americans do, but I know from experience that some drugs are deliberately overpriced and have shortened expiry dates because there is no competition anymore. Sounds like the NDP would prevent that sort of gouging.

The NDP also recognize an urgent problem with home care and will improve it. About time.

So who has the best promises? Well, the Conservatives have no new ideas and haven't accomplished much these last two years despite their list; the Greens extensively discuss and explain their platform and promise Pharmacare, support for alternative medicine, and training more doctors and nurses, yet don't address home care (I should note that with my short attention span I didn't read it all and may've missed that if they did promise it); the Liberals promise only coverage for very expensive medications, training of doctors and nurses, but say nothing on home care; the NDP promise more doctors and nurses with a twist to entice more specifically into family medicine, and they promise pharmacare and home care. Somehow the Greens impress me the most, probably because they clearly have thought through what the problems are and how best to solve them and they want Canadians to understand fully the issues and solutions, unlike the other parties. But in the end, I can only say for certain that the Conservatives won't make much of a difference to my health care, that the Liberals probably won't either, and my hope lies in the Greens or NDP. And yet none hardly discuss about how best to provide traditional medicare -- the whole two-tier and private vs. public debate. For me, that's for another day. But it's something to think about as you extensively peruse the parties' platforms, assuming you want to, of course!

1 comment:

scissor said...

platform hire and waves goodbye to the passengers of the train. Nearby, Eugene Turbulence, leader of the staunch right wing party, the AWB, has fallen off his horse and lies blind drunk and forgotten on the railway tracks. The monument, and the rest of the station, serves as a reminder that despite political quagmires, we have the right to relax and laugh and appreciate our countries for what they are. We should all believe in the basic principle of a democracy, which is that the people lead and the politicians follow.