A very different health-care debate

at 10:41 AM ET, 04/25/2011


(Commonwealth Fund)
The Globe and Mail summarizes the positions Canada’s three major parties have adopted on the country’s heath-care system. The conservative position is, to an American, virtually unimaginable:

CONSERVATIVES:
Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party strongly support the Canada Health Act and its objective of a universally accessible, publicly funded health-care system in Canada. That is why he has increased funding for health care to record levels and why we will continue to increase funding for health care at 6 per cent a year to ensure that all Canadians have access to high-quality health care regardless of ability to pay.
LIBERALS:
A Liberal government passed the Canada Health Act, and we are firmly committed to enforcing the act in government. The reforms we will pursue in government do not require changes to the act itself, and can be accomplished through companion agreements arrived at through collaboration with the provinces and territories.
NDP:
New Democrats are committed to preserving public, not-for-profit universal health care. We would strengthen the act to bring out-of-hospital services such as home care and long-term care inside the public health-care system, helping to get costs under control.

I’d say “oh, Canada,” but it’s not just Canada. As you can see in the graph atop this post (poll data), residents of other countries are more likely than we are to say their systems need only minor changes, while we’re more likely than they are to say our system needs to be completely rebuilt. This gets to something that I think leading conservatives understand very well about health-care reform: When universal health-care systems are tried, they prove popular — even untouchable — over time.

The closest we’ve come to such a system is Medicare, and that too has become immensely popular, with conservatives having to pretend they’re huge fans, and even the true protectors, of a single-payer system for the elderly. As such, once America moves to a universal system, it’s not likely to move back. You might see reforms made, but the underlying program and commitment will probably prove permanent. That’s why stopping the Affordable Care Act from being implemented is so in­cred­ibly important.

 
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