What is it saying?

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“Referendum to be in held in Ottawa on the Issue of Privatized Hospitals.” A notice with this title was received by the Times earlier this month. At first I didn’t believe it – sure, this is something that has been talked about for years, but to find out that the province may actually go ahead with it? Definitely a “wow” moment, to say the least. 

Like most issues, privatized health care has supporters and opponents. Those who support the idea suggest that having a private option will reduce the burden on public healthcare, therefore creating better health services for all. Those who oppose the idea argue that it’s just another way that the rich will be ahead of the poor. I am in camp #2. 

There are already enough ways that society reminds poor people they are poor. There are also times that businesses and even the government choose to remind people that regardless of socioeconomic status, those who pay more are simply better. 

A business example is theme parks such as Canada’s Wonderland. When we took the kids there a couple of years ago, we were shocked at the long lineups. Lining up for rides is no surprise, but it was the length of the lineups that we found unbearable. We spent about 7 hours at the park, and got to go on about 5-6 rides. How does this relate to paying more to be considered “elite”? The park has a “fast pass” that allows customers to pay exponentially more for their tickets in order to skip the lines. Whether or not we could afford the extra cost, we didn’t want to buy these fast passes and teach our kids that wealthier people are better or always deserve to be first. The existence of the fast passes makes the lines significantly slower for the holders of the “peasant” tickets. It’s awful. 

Surely governments don’t also participate in this type of “more money makes you better” system? Unfortunately, this idea is actually ingrained into the very essence of our legal system. We all know that “good lawyers” can win court cases more easily than less experienced or less educated ones. We also know that the best lawyers are bound to be more expensive. I have no problem with quality goods and services costing more money. The problem lies in the implications for those without money. Being convicted of a crime solely because you couldn’t afford a “good lawyer” is morally wrong. Similarly, being guilty of a crime and escaping sanctions on the basis of being wealthy enough to have a “good lawyer” is just plain unfair. 

In civil cases, we often see that people who sue a large corporation (for liability damages, as an example) are crushed by the corporation’s lawyers. Why? Because corporations have no shortage of money. The moral and ethical culpability should matter more than cashflow – in fact, in a truly fair and equal society, socio-economic status should have no bearing at all on the outcome of court cases. But it does. 

We all know the saying “Money Talks”. It does indeed. I am not anti-money, nor am I a socialist or a communist. I value the role that money plays in society by quantifying contributions to society, and providing societal benefits in return. If I work hard to do more for society, then I have more resources to purchase my wants and needs. However, there are certain situations where we are allowing money to talk too much, without asking “What is it saying?”

Our current healthcare system is not working, but those who have mismanaged it in the first place should try fixing it instead of breaking it more. I am not arguing that American privatized healthcare is not better healthcare – it is. Surgeries can be scheduled in a matter of days, not months. Tests such as MRI scans and bloodwork are much faster, and clinics are more abundant. But the American system is one that requires health insurance by its very nature. It is a blanket system. Just as most Ontarians pay the “Ontario Health Premium” as part of their income tax returns ever year, Americans must pay insurance premiums, and in both jurisdictions, everyone has access to the same healthcare system. A hybrid model is different – and unfair. 

Two people in the same province should not be receiving vastly different healthcare solely on the basis of socioeconomic status. We are better than that. Instead, it’s time for the provincial government to actually fix what we already have. I paid $750 for the Ontario Health Premium last year, and about the same amount in previous years. I have been seen by a doctor exactly twice in five years, and both were 10 minute visits, at most. By my calculations, my 20 minutes spent with a doctor did not cost $3,750. While it’s hard to peg an exact figure that physicians are paid per visit in Ontario, my research suggests I can safely say it’s less than $50 per visit. Sure, not everyone pays the Health Premium, and many who do certainly get more money in services than they pay out in premiums, but we should be able to achieve acceptable healthcare with the money coming in. This is especially true considering that the system is funded largely by a separate, dedicated tax. 

If money is the issue, it’s time to budget better and make a plan for the future of Ontario’s healthcare. I don’t accept that the only solution is jumping ship on equal healthcare for all. 

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