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Over the last several decades, a wide number of studies from experts inside and outside of Canada have pointed out the gap between the current performance of our health system and the level of performance we should be able to expect.
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The health workforce is the "elephant in the room" at health policy tables -- a large, pervasive issue that unfortunately often goes unaddressed. The health workforce is a pillar of the health system and so like the foundation of our homes, it can sometimes go unnoticed. But if we plan on reforming services (i.e., renovating our home), we are going to have to attend to whether the health workforce foundation can support the changes.
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Across Canada, public and private drug plans are increasingly using reference-based pricing policies to contain costs. Under reference-based pricing, drug plans reimburse the cost of the reference drug(s) in a medication class. Most often, this is the least expensive drug.
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Think tanks, politicos and pundits regularly weigh in with how to improve Canadian healthcare. Such media coverage is often weighted. And journalists covering the issue often struggle on short timelines to gain enough knowledge to ask the critical questions. But that's about to change.
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The evidence for the link between factors determined by social policy and health outcomes is crystal clear. Decades of studies have demonstrated that income and its distribution, education, employment, housing, food security and the wider environment have far greater impact than health care in influencing our health.
It seems there is a disconnect between Canadians' personal views and their idea of how well the health system works for society at large. Canadians tout the public health care model as a big part of our national identity, say their experiences are mostly positive -- but then worry the system is failing.
A new petition has surfaced concerning the scope of practice of Naturopaths in Ontario. The Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND) is collecting signatures to support a rather vague demand that the Ontario health minister, Deb Mathews, ensure that naturopathic doctors (NDs) are allowed to "maintain effective continuous care" of their patients and while insisting that naturopathic therapies are "scientifically proven." The larger question is, do Naturopaths have what it takes to be primary care doctors in Ontario? The evidence suggests quite strongly that they do not.
The Canadian health care system is not free -- in fact, Canadian families pay heavily for healthcare through the tax system. That high price paints the long wait times and lack of medical technologies in Canada in a very different light.
Waiting is a defining characteristic of Canadian health care. Canadians wait, often interminably, for access to health care services. Canada's wait times are among the longest in the developed world. And, contrary to popular belief, Canada's terrible wait times are not the result of insufficient health care spending. In 2009 (the most recent year for which comparable statistics are available), Canada's health care system ranked as the developed world's most expensive universal-access system. The solution to Canada's waiting time woes is sensible health policy reform that would employ private competition in the delivery of universally accessible hospital and surgical services .
The debate over health care consumerism -- a more overarching issue bound up in the very notion of Canadianism -- is over. Outside of dusty corners of academia, Canadians agree that health care is a service industry like any other. It's just more complicated.