Sunday, April 30, 2006

The cost of free health care

(From The Other Club)

From the Fraser Institute. The link below permits you to read the whole thing:
Total Tax Bill for the Average Canadian Family has Increased 1,600 Percent Since 1961

The total tax bill of the average Canadian family has increased by 1,600 percent since 1961, according to a new book, Tax Facts 14, released today by The Fraser Institute. That translated into an additional $26,792 in taxes for the average Canadian family.

Canadians’ total tax bill now accounts for more of the family budget than shelter, food, and clothing combined. In contrast to the jump in taxes, expenditures on shelter increased by 1,006 percent, food by 481 percent and clothing by 439 percent over the same period.
The other cost of "free" health care is rationing; as Small Dead Animlas has been documenting, here
The family of a 57-year-old Meath Park woman says it will take at least three months before their mother gets to see a Saskatchewan oncologist who can tell her if her cancer is treatable or fatal.
and here.
18 month old Paige Hansen is currently in a hospital in Edmonton. Her family finally decided Thursday to seek help elsewhere (doing so without "permission" from SaskHealth, and therefore at their own expense) after waiting three weeks for diagnosis of her pain in Saskatoon. The child was "screaming every waking minute", and had stopped walking 6 days earlier. In the meantime, they were advised to give her children's Tylenol.

According to a family member being interviewed, the care they received in Edmonton began immediately, testing was done during the first night there. This morning they have a preliminary diagnosis of leukemia.
SaskHealth is the Province of Saskatchewan's monopoly. Saskatchewan is run by socialists - literally. Edmonton is in Alberta. It's like this: If you lived in Toledo your health"insurance" wouldn't pay for treatment in Ann Arbor even if all the hospitals in Ohio were refusing patients.

Supply and demand can be regulated fairly by markets; they cannot be fairly regulated by government.

Artificial limitation of supply to control prices never works. From price caps on gasoline in the 70's that produced interminable gas lineups, to 3 month waits to find out if your cancer is (now going to be?) fatal: This is your government, and it's here to get re-elected by appealing to your ignorance and gullibility.

Health fund reforms will benefit all Australians

An editorial from "The Australian" newspaper

When it comes to paying for their healthcare, Australians enjoy a system that for the most part strikes a sensible balance between the laissez-faire market of the US, that leaves millions unprotected, and the dangerously bureaucratic and inefficient socialised medicine schemes of nations such as Canada and Britain. But this does not mean there is not room for improvement. When Medibank, which later became Medicare, was first introduced in 1975, it was a breakthrough that provided universal healthcare and cost containment. But its creaky big-government model became as out of date as national wage cases, and led to long queues and rationing, and Australians have since sought - and received - far more choice in their healthcare.

After the policy changes of the late-1990s designed to increase the take-up of private health funds, enrolment numbers are once again flagging with 43 per cent - just under nine million people - of the nation covered by private medical coverage. Sensible reforms, such as those proposed this week by the Howard Government, can help reverse this trend. Scheduling out-patient treatments and preventative as well as lifestyle measures such as gym memberships once considered "extras" under basic hospital cover should reduce hospital admissions while saving money and lives. Diabetes claims 3300 Australian lives a year and costs $1.2 billion a year. Obesity is thought to cost the nation another $1.2 billion. And smoking kills 19,000 Australians a year through various preventable diseases, at a cost of some $21 billion. To save even 10 per cent of these costs and lives would be a boon for the health system and the country.

Other reforms are similarly encouraging. Dropping lifetime health cover penalties for fund members who retain their coverage for more than a decade removes another disincentive to signing up. And greater transparency about out-of-pocket costs is also a big win for consumers. Some 43 per cent of health fund members who stay in a private hospital wind up with a bill averaging $720, often not realising they will be slugged with extra charges. In addition to all this, the Government is also set to put Medibank Private up for sale. This is a sensible move for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that it removes the conflict of interest inherent with having a health insurance policy-maker owning a private insurance company.

With these reforms completed, the next step will be clear - namely, the Government should stop meddling in the rates set by private health funds. The industry is already competitive and price-sensitive, and at least one health fund's current advertising campaign uses its history of modest premium increases as its primary selling point. And given that health fund membership is reasonably elastic, it is in the health funds' interests to stay competitive with one another lest members get fed up with the cost and hop back into the public pool. There is no reason to require private health funds to continue to get approval for their premiums from Canberra.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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