by Robert Metz – March 1992

“Too many doctors!” say Canada’s provincial health-care ministers. Ridiculous. There’s no such thing as “too much” of anything that people want or need. When supply exceeds demand, prices go down and eventually supply will find its optimum level accordingly. That’s good. Unfortunately, under socialized medicine, the price of visiting a doctor or hospital is already zero and can’t go down any further. That’s bad.

According to the reported consensus of Canada’s provincial health ministers attending January 1992′s conference in Banff Alberta, Canada’s national Medicare system will be bankrupt by the year 2000. While their admission of this fact alone should wake up Canadians who believe that their governments can continue to provide “free” social services to all, given the ministers’ “cures for an ailing health system”, I doubt if it will last that long.

The scary part is that they say their “solutions” to saving the health-care system follow the conclusion of “20 years of intensive study on how to control the distorted growth of health- care distribution.” This means, of course, that they’ve only been “studying” health-care costs from the frozen mindset of socialized universal health-care — which was entrenched in Canada before their “study” began, and which is the very cause of the “distorted growth” in healthcare distribution. It also means that the ministers have not been studying health-care distribution from the perspective of rational, sane, free-market health-care where those who can afford to provide their own private health insurance, and where we only help those who can’t help themselves.

If any proof were needed to demonstrate that politicians have been clearly more interested in getting votes than in providing “affordable healthcare for all,” their support of universality is it. As a result we have a universal healthcare system that has been purposely set up not to help those who cannot help themselves, but to appeal to a broad electorate that will vote for anyone who uses the word “free” and vote against anyone who uses the term “individual responsibility.”

Perhaps it’s time to stop for a moment to consider how utterly stupid, dishonest, wasteful, and tragic our political commitment to universality is. Under universality, we all lose. As tax- paying citizens, we get a myriad of social programs shoved down our collective throats, supposedly to “help those in need,” or some variant of an argument that is coldly calculated to appeal to our natural desire to help others. Then, when the program is enacted, suddenly it’s universal! — not just for those in need, but for everybody!

What gives? — universal healthcare, universal pensions, universal daycare… Small wonder that Canada’s debt is starting to look pretty universal too! If astronomer Carl Sagan were suddenly to become an economist, he’d still be famous for saying “Billions and billions and billions and billions…”

The point is, how can we expect to help those in need when we commit ourselves to squandering billions on providing “free” government services to all? Who’s holding up the “safety net” if the whole country’s caught inside it? Clearly, universality is no friend of the poor, needy, or disadvantaged. Under universality, the needy get pushed out by the greedy. And to hide this fact from the rest of us, politicians have been forced to sell universality on fraudulent terms.

Remember the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)? OHIP was a complete fraud. Under OHIP, “premiums” weren’t premiums at all because they didn’t cover the costs necessary to keep the “plan” viable. But then, the use of the word “plan” was equally fraudulent because there never has been any “plan” — no actuarial tables, no investments, no fund — just a “plan” to tax future taxpayers, the only part of the “plan” that still seems to be alive and well. Hardly surprising. Under OHIP, even the word “insurance” was fraudulent; after all, insurance is for emergencies, not for consumption.

Though health-care in Ontario is now euphemistically being funded through the Employer Health Tax (EHT), this merely spreads the fraud to a broader base, since the EHT is really nothing more than an arbitrary payroll tax that eventually must come out of employee’s pockets. Of course, health taxes have always been cleverly hidden and taken from the pockets of all Ontarians, rich and poor alike. For example, OHIP “premiums”, when they existed, at best covered 12% of Ontario’s healthcare spending. That meant that 88% of health care costs (not including deficits) were paid by provincial taxes — income taxes, sales taxes, etc., — taxes paid by everyone.

Worse, in 1967, the year before OHIP was fraudulently sold to a buying Ontario electorate, 82% of Ontarians already carried adequate private health insurance, suitable to their needs and fully capable of sustaining most through expensive emergency healthcare. Only 18% of Ontarians remained uninsured in 1967: some by choice, some through neglect, and a few through a genuine inability to pay or through an inability to qualify for pre-existing health reasons. But instead of helping specific groups within this 18% of uninsured Ontarians, the government of the day chose to “help” all Ontarians under a government-monopolized universal health care system. Universality is the guaranteed way to destroy our ability to help those in need.

With their ideologies fully committed to the sacred cow of universality, it should come as no surprise that Canada’s health care ministers have painted themselves into a funding corner with no options. As a result, they’ll be forced to cut back on the number of doctors allowed to practice medicine, and they’ll be forced to begin the inevitable process of rationing healthcare to the very citizens to whom they’re still promising “universal access.”

To add insult to injury, and to evade their own responsibility to the electorate, politicians will, of course, blame doctors and patients for the whole mess.

No matter how bad our healthcare system gets by the year 2000, you can bet that politicians who support universality will still be trying to convince us that the only way we can help those in need will be by “saving” something they’ll continue to call “a universal healthcare system.” Meanwhile, as is already the case, actual healthcare accessibility to individual Canadians will continue to decline dramatically. This is a certainty that each of us had better start facing up to — and doing something about.

Universality is universal madness. Let’s end the madness.   {end}

- Robert Metz       Consent #16    March-April-May 1992

(This essay, in edited form, was also published in the London Free Press on March 20, 1992.)