A different take on two-tier healthcare

Have pay-for hospitals fund the public system

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Canada’s healthcare system is in serious need of repair, but the harsh reality is that the money just isn’t in the budget. The obvious response would be to implement two-tier health care, but this raises serious worries about lowering the quality of public hospitals.

Here’s one way we can solve the problem.

When most people think about two-tier health care, they envision the legalization of privately owned hospitals, as is the case in the United States.

The worry is that privately owned hospitals would fill the pockets of a few tycoons, draw the best doctors from public institutions and lower the overall standard and accessibility of medicine.

Instead, I propose we open a second tier of pay-for hospitals that would be publicly owned.

Have the government open additional hospitals that would charge at the door and would not be covered by OHIP. Pay all doctors and staff the same salaries, wages and benefits as at traditional hospitals so as not to draw the best doctors away.

What’s important is that the government own and run these hospitals. Privately-owned hospitals should still be illegal, and all profits from pay-for hospitals should go directly to the government.

Specifically, all profits should be channeled directly towards the public health system so as to increase funding towards OHIP-covered hospitals.

This allows for a pay-for tier of healthcare that helps to sustain and improve the public system rather than detract from it. Profit-based hospitals would work to the benefit of the traditional system.

Pay-for hospitals would certainly be sustainable " waiting lines are long enough at this point that many would surely be willing to fork over the money in order to secure swifter treatment.

One might worry there is too much demand for pay-for hospitals, quickly negating the benefit of buying healthcare out of pocket, but high demand " and thus high profits " would ultimately enable the government to open additional hospitals or expand existing ones.

The obvious criticism would be that this system allows the wealthy to skip healthcare lines, pushing others to the back, but this isn’t the case. Rather, the wealthy will simply leave the line in favour of another source and open spots in traditional hospitals for others.

All in all, this situation allows the government to open additional hospitals without creating an American-style disparity in healthcare. The pay-for tier benefits traditional hospitals by funneling profits into the system.

This essentially increases the quality of healthcare for both the rich and poor. And that’s the goal, isn’t it?

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