No thanks to private Medicare

I couldn’t disagree more with Mark Rovere’s op-ed piece  (It’s time to consider going Dutch on health care – March 23).

First, let me point out that I support free markets and open competition in practically every area of our economy, but not when it comes to health care. Here’s why: If you do a bad deal on a widget and you realize you could have purchased a cheaper widget down the street or on the Internet, it hurts your pocket book and possibly your ego.

If, however, you do bad deal on a health care procedure, you might end up with excessive scar tissue, blurred vision, an amputated limb, an entire lifetime of pain or related ailments or even death. The reality is that no one wants stratified health care options just to save a few bucks. We want whatever health problem we’re experiencing to be taken care of quickly and effectively by top-quality, conscientious medical personnel who will not cut corners because some insurance manager wants them to.

When it comes to health care, only the best will do. It doesn’t matter if you’re some working-class Joe (or Jane) or the former CEO of Encana, who suggested a similarly wrong-headed two-tier approach to health care reform on this page some months ago.

Still not convinced? I lived for 15 years in the U.S., where health insurance companies aim to aggressively “manage” your care, typically in a circumstance when you’re most vulnerable (i.e., when you’re sick or after surgery). Once they pick all the low hanging fruit in terms of getting doctors, other health providers and pharmaceutical companies to sign on with their plans and manage costs, they will engage in a tireless campaign to undercut those costs in a proxy war with you, which will ultimately leave you with the bill because something wasn’t “covered.”

They will systematically raise premiums and deductibles for you or your employer, if health insurance is a workplace benefit, and they will frequently delay payment on claims by weeks or even months, usually with such stall tactics as suggesting you filled out the claim form incorrectly or that they haven’t processed your claim yet. You may even find yourself paying interest on health-related debt because you paid for a costly procedure with a credit card.

Listen Canada, if you want to let an aggressive and frequently hostile middle-manager, who’s real interest is maximizing corporate profit for insurance CEOs and shareholders, into your health care arrangement, then by all means begin entertaining Rovere’s position and vote your conscience. However, don’t be surprised when your new private health insurer starts to make Interior Health look like a de-clawed, de-fanged pussycat.

In my opinion, big business is typically no more efficient than a government agency, and in this case we’d be switching out one type of bureaucracy for another — a health-insurance watchdog. In the end you’ll find that you’ll not only be fighting cancer or some other heart-wrenching, life-sapping illness, you’ll also be fighting with your insurer to get your claim paid as promised.

Rob Giannetto