MLI wraps up its video series on how to reform the Canadian health care system

OTTAWA, Sept. 6, 2016 – Better incentives and less bureaucracy are the key to reforming Canada’s costly and inefficient health-care system, says a new video from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

Sustainable Medicare For All, the fourth and final video in MLI’s “Medicare’s Midlife Crisis” series, looks at how governments across Canada can encourage better services for Canadians at a lower cost to taxpayers.

Brian Lee Crowley“Can health care be delivered more efficiently and at lower cost, while preserving the good health of Canadians?” asks Brian Lee Crowley, Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. “As MLI’s research has demonstrated time and again, the answer is a resounding yes!”

Sean Speer, an MLI Munk Senior Fellow, is available to comment on the video for news outlets. To arrange an interview, please see contact information at the bottom of this press release.

The video is being released as several challenges to the health-care system emerge.

This week the British Columbia Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit from Doctor Brian Day, who is crusading for greater access to private health care. Dr. Day, who operates a surgical clinic in Vancouver, is challenging the provincial ban on patients paying for services privately that are covered by the public system.

It also comes as the federal government prepares to negotiate a new agreement with the provinces for helping to fund the health care system. Health Minister Jane Philpott recently said she wants the provinces to agree to more conditions on how the money is spent before Ottawa gives them any more cash.

“The more central direction you get of the detail of how medical care is organized and how care is delivered, the less efficient it’s going to be” -Prof. Brian Ferguson

But is that really the best way to go about reforming the health-care system?

The new MLI video says no.

Bureaucrats in Ottawa and provincial capitals need to stop thinking they can run something as complex as the health care system, says Prof. Brian Ferguson in the video.

“The more central direction you get of the detail of how medical care is organized and how care is delivered, the less efficient it’s going to be”, he says.

There should also be better incentives for Canadians to not abuse the system.

Dr. Brett Belchetz, an emergency room physician, says he sees this all the time. For example, patients will go to multiple health-care providers – a clinic, their family doctor, his emergency room – in the search for antibiotics for a common cold.

“The cumulative cost of those three visits is extreme”, says Belchetz.

That’s why more governments should be looking at the idea of introducing service fees. The idea has worked in Sweden, where introducing a fee has reduced the demand for unnecessary medical visits.

“What happens is if you are sick, you go to the doctor, and if it’s a one-time fee of $15 or something like that, it doesn’t prevent you from going to a doctor”, says Sven Otto Littorin, the Swedish Minister For Employment from 2006-2010. “It’s also the case that if you are without means you are exempt from paying this fee”.

The health-care system also needs to evolve so that the most highly trained providers – doctors – aren’t wasting their time dealing with scraped fingers and runny noses.

“If Canadians truly want the best health-care system in the world, this is the approach that will get us there” -Brian Lee Crowley

Littorin says that in Sweden, for example, nurses are very good at deciding which patients do and do not need to see a doctor.

Ferguson says that more health-care providers should operate like a dentist’s office, where hygienists leave only the most important work for the dentist.

“The system has never adapted to the notion that somebody other than the GP could be providing the services or part of the services within the GP’s practice”, says Ferguson.

The Medicare Midlife Crisis series shows that the status quo is not an option. Rising costs and an aging population are squeezing the system.

“If Canadians truly want the best health-care system in the world, this is the approach that will get us there”, says Crowley.

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Brian Lee Crowley is the Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is the only non-partisan, independent national public policy think tank in Ottawa focusing on the full range of issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

For more information, please contact Mark Brownlee, communications manager, at 613-482-8327 x105 or email at mark.brownlee@macdonaldlaurier.ca.

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