23 Apr 14

Costly health care

Health Care: two words that inspire fear in most people.  But it is quite simply a necessity to our lives in Canada, despite how its importance grows and falls.  We consider it essential at the start with maternity and newborn checkups, ignored at middle age unless we are injured, and depended upon by the elderly managing their graceful degradation as they fight the inevitable chronic and acute crises presented by aged bodies.
Health care is a classic supply and demand problem greatly influenced by Canadian voters and governed by budgetary pressures.  In our own district, just this month, the hospital administration closed beds and increased user fees.  Clearly, a reduction of services means that the money into health care is not matching the expenses paid out.
Unlike the retirement we have been conditioned to save for, how many Canadians are prepared to set money aside for their unforecast and uninsured health-care costs?  Many of us already pay for private plans through work, but in our retirement how do we plan to claim expenses such as home care if and when we are sent home from the hospital based on someone’s checklist?  How do we estimate the out-of-pocket costs for services paid for today, which are the cuts of tomorrow.  How do we ensure these services are at a minimum acceptable level when they are no longer provided / managed by the government?
It is a simple fact that we are prisoners of the health-care system – it is a need, not a want.  As a society we have moved to a place where poverty is hidden, because we believe that people are cared for when in reality they are still there.  We have similarly unrealistic expectations about easy access to medical care, that it is timely, and that it works every time.  Those same unrealistic expectations guide our attitudes to our health as we slowly but surely age and stop functioning at peak performance.
Our dependency on centralized government-run health care is unhealthy.  Our addiction is to one of rosy ends, a system that provides good jobs, and short wait-times.  It is our own fault that our government has never been able to deliver what we wanted, and frankly has no idea how to.  To begin with, there is no consensus as to what efficient and cost-effective service delivery means, let alone what it costs to have a medical system prepared to be scaled to the demands of an ageing populace or potential global emergency like MERS.
We are caught in a vicious cycle, and every time we go around trying to figure it out, the delay costs us more in inflation and costs the lives of those who can not afford the time.  Quality of life means choice, but end of life care is not one we have much control over.

Pamela J Pearson