The term, health care 'super utilizers' or 'super users,' was first coined by Dr. Jeff Brenner of Camden, New Jersey to describe individuals who, despite very high levels of health intervention and expense, are still suffering from very ill health. His work also outlines the existence of 'medical hot spots' -- specific areas in a community that often incur the highest health bills.
Healthcare in Canada is anything but free. The average Canadian family of two parents with two children (similar to Walt's family in the drama) pays approximately $11,320 in taxes for hospital and physician care through the country's tax system, in addition to the cost of private insurance for things like dental care and outpatient prescription drugs.
It is my belief, as a Canadian who has lived in the U.S. for several years now and writes about drug development and medicine for a living, that standard of care isn't good enough when standards of care are poor. Why stick to a treatment regimen for all patients when the results are so dismal? In the absence of anything better to offer, why not at least offer patients and their families choice? There are many things that I admire about the Canadian healthcare system. Inflexibility is not one of them.
Over the next three years, the Ontario government plans to begin partially funding hospitals based on the number of patients they treat and the quality of care they provide. It's an ambitious plan that could fall flat or set a new global benchmark. No country has yet managed to set a price on high-quality care.
Maintaining the status quo is not sufficient for Canadians to retain pride in our health-care system. The time for reform is now. So how can Canadian policy-makers implement more coordinated care? We argue that virtual multi-specialty networks may be a useful model of care delivery.
It is something we are often reminded to do, meet with our general practitioners on a regular basis to prevent terminal or debilitating illnesses. What's often forgotten by us, but by our doctors too, is that our mind is part of our body.
There is an ongoing campaign to convince health care providers, decision-makers and the public that generic medications cannot be trusted and that if you want the real goods you need to pay the brand name price. The line is actually a twist, a re-packaging of some complicated statistics into an easy-to-understand sound bite, but one with the unfortunate weakness of not being true.
Canadian health care is not a perfect system by any means, but having practised psychiatry in the United States as well, I have an pretty good idea about the differences between the Canadian and American health care systems. Since I've returned to Toronto, I've seen the benefits of the Canadian health care system up close. I'm proud to be a Canadian, knowing that my tax dollars are being put to good use.
This past week, a small family-owned medical facility just outside Toronto, the Shouldice Hospital, catapulted to the centre of the public-private debate in Canadian health care. Centric Health -- a publicly traded company under American control -- has placed a bid to acquire Shouldice for over 14-million dollars. Frustration with our current health system and the visceral reaction to contract it out is understandable. But for-profit hospital and provider arrangements are accountable first to their shareholders, second to patients and taxpayers.
In Switzerland, the way the health care system is organized has evolved in the opposite direction of Canada's, where the trend has rather been toward ever more centralized regulation and public financing. When all is said and done, the Swiss experience shows once again that the private sector can contribute constructively and efficiently to the provision of services within a public health care system without threatening the goals of fair and universal access to care.
Health care financing in Canada is no small business. With a staggering $200 billion spent on health care services annually debates about health care services financing ought to be taken seriously. We certainly have no shortage of pundits, from the left and the right, weighing in on the state of the Canadian health care system. Too bad the debates aren't often based on the facts. We deserve better. We deserve evidence.
Oh what a completely gratuitous way of getting you to read this blog! Shameless sensationalism, pure and simple. We try to be more high-minded than that at HuffPost, at least over here on the blog rail, where we would never post links to the red-headed royal frolicking around a Las Vegas hotel room in the buff, with an equally starkers "poker" (poke her? surely that's what the reports meant ...) companion. At most we would publish a serious think piece on the increasingly diminishing returns of the monarchy -- one which would thoughtfully weigh its relevance to our country, one which might indeed spark an important national debate on the topic.
Many Canadians have developed an insidious culture of self-satisfaction that comes with being told repetitively by politicians and media that we have "the best health care system in the world." We have somehow taken this patent lie as a slice of authentic Canadiana. It makes us feel good, safe and comfortable. But you don't have a "comprehensive and universal" system if it takes two years to get a hip replaced, or eight months to get an MRI after a hard knock to the head. How can we keep a straight face and call our system a caring and "universal" one if many have no where to go?
Medicare and the CHA have reached mythical proportions in Canada. It is an untouchable "sacred trust." Those that dare question it -- much less talk of reform -- are virtually branded enemies of the state. I experienced this first hand last year when as a candidate in the general election I had the temerity to point out a simple fact: Canada does not have the "best healthcare system in the world," as all politicians have told us for years. In fact, that is a cruel deception. And CHA is nothing more than a hollow and toothless statement of intention and principles, has been the most untouchable of scared cows of Canadian politics since 1984. All three national parties kneel at its altar.
There's been a lot of talk about reforming the Canada Health Act -- specifically losing two of the five principles. What's less frequently discussed is what we risk losing if certain principles of the Canada Health Act were to be relaxed or abandoned completely. If that happens, can anyone be confident that a high quality public system can be sustained?
The Harper government may choose to believe that a divided society is not bad for the economy, or that wealth will trickle down. Canadians from across the country may have to assure him that health will surely not. Canada has fared better than other nations in the global economic crisis, but success stories have not followed those who prescribed austerity.