Paul Jacob

Canada is not a communist country. Really, it's not ? except when it comes to medical care.

While some Americans argue that our health care system should be copying Canada's single-payer national (read: government-controlled) health care system, a recent ruling by Canada's Supreme Court ought to cause some serious reconsideration. Deadly serious reconsideration.

Canada is the only industrialized country that actually prohibits citizens from privately contracting for medical care. In other words, no matter how much money Canadians can afford to pay, they're stuck in the public's health care system waiting and waiting and waiting for care.

Or, when they can afford it, giving up on waiting and traveling to the U.S. to get it.

How long are the waits?

In a case brought by Jacques Chaoulli, a Montreal family doctor, and George Zeliotis, a patient forced to wait a year to have his hip replaced, Canada's Supreme Court found that the evidence "shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care."

The court thus concluded that Canada's invasive, idiotic and totalitarian prohibition of private health insurance and medical care ? of almost anything outside the government-run system ? is unconstitutional. The long waiting periods in the government system violated the "life and personal security, inviolability and freedom" of patients under Quebec's charter of human rights and freedoms. So ruled the court.

Yet, the court actually split ? three to three ? as to whether the killer waits of the nationalized health care system also violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So, at least for now, the ruling only applies in the province of Quebec.

Still, most experts seem to think this ruling will likely be expanded through lawsuits in the other provinces. Lorne Sossin, dean of the University of Toronto law school argues, "The language of the ruling will encourage more and more lawsuits and those suits have a greater likelihood of success in light of this ruling."

Leaders of the various provinces have long sought to allow health care alternatives, but they've found themselves with all the freedoms of a cat writhing in a sack. As The New York Times reported, "The federal government has threatened to hold back financial aid to provinces that press ahead with private health care. . . ."

But since Quebec, by court order, cannot prevent private medicine, the cat is now out of the bag. As Dr. Chaoulli pointedly asked, "How could you imagine that Quebeckers may live and the English Canadian has to die?"

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.