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Layton, Martin, and Harper on Health Care
13/01/2006

There is absolutely nothing hypocritical about Jack Layton's visit to the Shouldice clinic in the 1990s. It's just "where you go" for hernia treatment if you live in Toronto. You pay with your OHIP card and that's that.

However, while not hypocritical, I think it does illustrate part of the flaw in Layton's position on public health care. He's against private clinics, but, as he said about Shouldice, "It's just part of the system. The doctor says, 'Go there.' You pay with your (Ontario health) card. It never occurred to me (it was) anything other than medicare, which it is."

And that, I think, is the important attribute of our health care system... you "pay" with your provincial health card, and don't have to worry about anything more. It doesn't matter much if the facilities are public or private. What matters is universal public health care insurance.

Now, the NDP is specifically against private for-profit clinics, and the Shouldice is non-profit. However, I don't think that makes such a huge difference. Some NDPers argue that we don't want public healthcare money wasted on a private company's bottom line. But I see that as an argument about the details of how the system can work most efficiently rather than a question about the fundamental nature of universal public health care insurance.

So long as we have single-payer insurance, and so long as we don't let people pay to jump ahead in line (perhaps by getting tests done faster in private clinics and then returning to the public system) and so long as these private clinics cannot charge "extra billings" beyond what provincial health insurance pays, then we are maintaining the system that Canadians generally still love. (Haven't we always been going to private for-profit clinics when we visit our doctor's office?)

And, if we add provisions that guarantee delivery of services within medically-recommended wait times, then we have improved the system to address the concerns raised in the Chaoulli case.

It surprises me, and I am still wondering if I misread something somewhere, but it seems that the Conservatives actually come closest to improving service while maintaining universal public health care insurance as we know it.


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