Some things just need to be said...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Canadian made advantage

Polite Company points us to the auto industry and some good background on the costs.

GM in the US says it will layoff 25,000 American workers by 2008. Why American workers, isn't GM an American company? GM has figured out that medical coverage for its employees
is $1500 per car. So anywhere from 5 to 10% of a car's cost is to pay for medical for workers.

Polite Company's research says the cost per car for medical in Canada is $500.00. That is a significant savings for any company, let alone what that must translate into savings for a corporation the size of GM.

One of the values the Canada provides any company setting up shop in our country is affordable healthcare costs. Add to this a public education system that is still relatively cheap compared to the American system, a tax regime which is competitive with the US and much lower crime rates and you understand why Americans love to do business here. The Canadian dollar means more for less and the transportation infrastructure is a big bonus.

None of this has happened by accident. It is all part of a set of values Canadians of most political stripes agree with to some degree. Part of a collective approach vs the fragmented US system that promotes a user pay system.

Canada has lost its way somehow over the last 12 years. The federal government has become a manager of of the country. It's goal was to eliminate the operating deficit, to cuts costs in all areas of government, reduce taxes and deliver fewer services.

We are paying a price for the actions taken by the Liberal government and supported by the other right wing party, the Conservatives. At odds with this approach has been the NDP.

The number of homeless people are way up in Canada. Those considered at risk to losing their housing is way in Canada. The number of people waiting for surgery right across the country is way up. The number of Canadians living below the poverty line is way up.

We have been making decisions in government at the provincial and federal level for 12 years now that have seen services to the poor, sick, disabled and middle class families reduced and or facing users fees where none existed before.

Canadians are after 12 years of budget cuts and tax cuts not seeing their incomes advancing. We in many cases have seen our disposable income (as if any of it is disposable) stay the same or fall.
Here in BC the economy is kicking along great due to high world commodity prices and low interest rates. Our Oil and Gas revenues have shot through the roof a dozen times in the last three years. Alberta has seen even bigger returns, yet has any of this new found wealth been transferred to provision of improved services for citizens? Not a bit of it.

Canada has only recently started to kick back some of the dollars they took out of the provincial health care systems. The goal was set modestly by provincial governments, seeking only a return to 25% of health costs compared to the original 50%. It is as if our leaders have collectively agreed to settle for less.

The recent Supreme Court decision has agreed that we are not looking after people and rightly declared that if the public healthcare system is not going to provide timely access to needed medical services then people can buy them privately.

Who could disagree with this decision? Of course it would be the only humane way to address it. There is more than just our healthcare system at stake here. One of Canada's competitive edges is our healthcare system. A single payer system is much cheaper to operate than the thousands of Insurance companies that operate in the United States.

Imagine local hospitals in Canada having to bill as many as two or three hundred different companies for services provided. The differing levels of benefits, deductibles, the need to accept mastercard and installation of debit card terminals so people can pay upfront for services rendered. What is the hidden cost of this system. How many accounts receivable folks will we have to hire? What about the collection agencies expansion that will be needed to squeeze dollars out of those of us that did not pay?

I know many out there will say I am being alarmist. They will counter that the work would not be done in public hospitals but in private clinics. It may well start there. The clinics will become pretty profitable, patients will pay large deductibles. Insurance companies will be richer. With governments like BC already moving thousands of procedures into private clinics, we will see the public hospitals as "even" more inefficient and they too will take paying customers.

Canada and the Provinces must recommit to the Canada Health Act, the federal government needs to crack down on private services and the provinces have to start delivering adequate services and reduce surgery waitlists.

Only then will we be able to protect our Canadian made advantage.