Periodically the government seems to feel the need to intimidate – no, scare us – with stories about the ever-increasing cost of public health-care. At the present time no doubt as a justification for the move by the federal government to curb health-care spending increases by setting new limits. Limits in the form of the yearly increases of health transfers to the provinces of the present six per cent to three per cent after 2018.
Not exactly largesse because freely translated this means a further reduction in health-care funding. And I need not point out that we’re talking about our very own tax dollars.
I’m afraid this might be particularly bad news for the elderly, while it is highly unlikely that the acute shortage of long-term care beds will see an improvement now.
With Harper’s tendency to ask “ how high “ when told to jump by Obama , the recent announcement about cuts in military spending in the U.S. – and the expectation that the slack will be taken up by Canada and others will not exactly diminish that bad news.
With the Canadian Department of Defense and Public Health Care we have, in a sense, two national institutions looking after the well-being of the population, one in the form of our safety, the other in matters of health.
It is a bit strange then that we are so often reminded of the cost of Health Care but never about the cost of the armed forces and their present activities.
In the not too distant past there seemed no reason to question the cost of the military because no matter what that cost was, there was justification in the ‘fact’ that “The Russians were coming.”
When finally they did come it was only to play hockey. Only a few felt they’d been had. The great majority asked no questions and why should they?
The nation seemed prosperous, our public health care was well funded and the elderly were allowed a dignified old age.
Besides, Canada still had a deserved reputation as the foremost peace keeping nation in the world.
For that task the army needed to be equipped. But now, with no identifiable foe in sight, the purchase of ever more sophisticated military hardware seems an obscene waste of money. Money that is badly needed in public health-care.
One major problem with the rising cost of health care is the fact that it is inextricably linked to poverty and poor nutrition, in effect forming a vicious circle.
That circle is even made stronger by a fast food industry that has conquered the world. With its relatively low nutritional value but low price it is mainly the poor that are its victims.
The often resulting obesity and its related ailments being a major driver in health care costs.
So breaking that vicious circle is no easy task: Eliminating poverty?
A utopian dream through the ages, with raising the quality of nutrition an equally daunting prospect.
With the enormous lobbying power of the food industry it is highly unlikely that we’ll ever see an effective regulation of this industry. For any party to do so would almost certainly amount to political suicide.
With the virtual impossibility of breaking that vicious circle, it appears the government is slowly shifting the responsibility – read costs – of health – and elderly care onto the individual. And while there can be no argument with the individual’s responsibility for his/her health, this is all about costs.
Apart from the fact that once again we’ll be out of pocket by a considerable amount, basically little else would change for the majority of the population. And as before, the healthy will subsidize the helpless, those caught up in the vicious circle, and the many who simply can’t pay anymore.
So far then a relatively easy way out for the government, but what to do with those troublesome elderly, the most vulnerable in our society?
Long term care – by all the evidence we’re allowed to see – is very low on the list of priorities of the present man in Ottawa.
A less dictatorial, more humanitarian government seems by far the only – and better answer.
Peter van Iersel