By restricting the market, public health care programs create long waits for specialists and often prevent patients from pursuing new treatments. Indeed, the median wait times between a referral from a family or general doctor to a specialist for further treatment increased significantly in every Canadian province between 1997 and 2006. For many treatments and procedures, Canadians are forced to wait twice as long as doctors believe is medically advisable.
Canada’s restrictive policies have also reduced the number of various types of health professionals, limited the availability of advanced equipment and severely restricted the prescription drug choices. Consider that even after Health Canada certifies a new drug, it takes over a year for that drug to actually reach the patients who need it. Between 2004 and 2005, it took an average of 439 days for provinces to receive reimbursement for drugs, forcing patients to wait months for necessary medications.
The list could go on, but it need not. We get the picture. The question is: What are we going to do about it?
The answer lies in the marketplace. Among the more promising proposals currently before Congress is the Health Care Choice Act. The Act would allow individuals to compare and purchase health insurance across state lines. This is a very important, if often misunderstood, way of reducing health care costs. Here’s a quick primer: Because health care is primarily regulated at the state level, states can force providers to cover services and procedures (e.g., chiropractic care or fertility treatments) regardless of necessity or patient demand. Insurance companies then pass these higher costs along to every consumer, regardless of whether they want or need coverage for such procedures.
A more efficient system would allow individuals to select the health care plans of their choice. Such a plan recognizes that a 20 year old male typically has very different medical needs than a 60 year old woman. Freeing consumers to select a health care plan that meets their needs and budget, even if it is in a different state, is a common sense solution that would ease the budget crunch facing many American families. And, thankfully, the Health Care Choice Act is just one of many promising ways in which we can address our health care needs without burdening our children with another entitlement that we can’t afford.
In the end, our financial and medical futures are simply too important to be left exclusively to government control. Few people know this lesson better than Canadians themselves. Just ask the many pregnant Canadians who are forced to travel to the U.S. to deliver their children because their country has—wait for it—too few hospital beds.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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