Burden, or Responsibility?!?

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Mon Jan 17 22:41:11 MST 2000

The Free Congress Commentary Placing the Burden of Health Care Where It
Should Be
by Paul M.  Weyrich

        I just returned from my third visit to Canada in the past four months. We
so often think that Canada is just like the United States that we forget
how much further down the road to a New Age Society they really are.

        The big debate these days is in Ontario. There the Premier Mike Harris,
who is a Progressive Conservative, is trying to put a salary cap on the
amount of money doctors can earn from Canada's health care system. He
contends that if a doctor earns more than $150,000 in federal fees, then he
should be willing to see patients for the rest of the year at a vastly
reduced rate.

        Doctors are outraged at this proposal, saying that if the cap is imposed
they will simply refuse to see all but the most urgent of cases. Harris
says if they pull that caper, they should have their medical licenses revoked.

        Callers to talk shows weigh in on both sides. One lady who sided with the
premier pointed out that taxpayers pay all of the tuition of doctors to go
to medical school so "they can be expected to give something back."

        Premier Harris has the reputation of being an otherwise innovative
official. Some pundits point to him as a possible contender to bring back
the Progressive Conservatives on the national level. That party, after two
terms in Parliament with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, went from a strong
majority in Parliament to just two seats, in one of the most humiliating
defeats ever suffered by a modern political party. Subsequently Harris was
elected in Ontario and has been seen as a problem solver who stays within
generally accepted conservative principles. So the Progressive
Conservatives, who hope to rebuild, have their eye on him.

        Harris can't be blamed for trying to get Canada's universal access health
care system under control. The system is bankrupt and service is
deteriorating. But Harris is going at it the wrong way. The problem there
isn't going to be solved by trying to put the burden on the doctors.

        That is the Kennedy-style solution to health care costs in the United
States, which has placed the burden on the hospitals as well as the doctors
to "contain costs". The problem is with the patients.

        The truth is that when you have universal access health care, all sorts of
people use the system when they would never do so if they were paying the
bill. It is politically incorrect to say so, but in this country many of
the elderly have procedures done which have little to do with their
ultimate well being.


        Because when they are in the hospital, relatives call.  They get flowers.
Nurses come and ask how they are doing. At home, the phone doesn't ring
that often. As the family has disintegrated, the toll has been taken on
that end of the age spectrum as well.

        The solution to health care costs lies with medical savings accounts.
Employers who offer these have drastically cut health care outlays for
their employees. Each person gets an account. Some money is taken from it
to buy catastrophic insurance. That way, if a really serious illness hits,
the individual isn't left to fend for himself. He can get long-term care
when needed. But the rest of the money can be spent as he sees fit.  What
he doesn't spend on health care at the end of the year, he pockets.  My, my
how the use of doctors and emergency rooms and neighborhood clinics has
declined under that system.

        No one is suffering on account of it. People just make careful choices.
They think about that thousand dollars left over at the end of the year and
they see the down payment on a new car or a bigger TV set or a nice
vacation. They don't use the health care system unless they really need to.
Harris, as a conservative (even a Canadian Conservative) should know better.

        He will fail if he tries to scapegoat the doctors for health care costs.
He ought to be pushing for medical savings accounts. That puts the burden
for health care costs where it should be...on the individual who uses the
system. If only the American election can filter out candidates for the
presidency for whom medical savings accounts are a priority. Then we can
have that debate in this country. Should a candidate favoring medical
savings accounts get elected president, Canada could be shown the way.  It
is certain, the way things are going in our neighbor to the North, they
will not have any successful policy to commend to the United States. More's
the pity. It would be so easy for them to be the shining example for a change.

        Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation. For media
inquiries, contact Robert McFarland 202.546.3000
rmcfarland at freecongress.org For other questions or comments, contact Angie
Wheeler awheeler at freecongress.org Visit Our Website at

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