Right in the centre - Help is on the way?


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The federal government has promised us that help is on the way. God spare us!

The federal government is already spending well beyond its current level of income and, as a result, is building up the debt at an alarming rate.

Their next help line is a proposed national Pharmacare program. Surveys are being conducted asking people if they want such a program. Considering that drugs are fairly expensive and that some drugs are very expensive, of course people will want “free” drugs. But free isn’t free. Somebody, somewhere will pay for the drugs and if a national Pharmacare is put in place, it will be the taxpayers who pay for it,

When medicare came in in 1938 at a voluntary municipal level in Saskatchewan, I believe it was a first for Canada. It was well over 20 years later before Canada’s much touted father of medicare, Premier Tommy Douglas, brought in medicare in Saskatchewan. A small insurance premium was charged and that was a good thing. In fact, Manitoba charged a small fee until the early 1970s. Cancelling the fee was bad thing.

Medicare should have retained the fees. It should also have retained the reporting system, whereby medicare services were listed and that list sent to each citizen. Considering those lists were made up in the day of manual records, how much easier would it be to keep track today?

When we go a chiropractor, we pay a partial fee. Why not when we go to a doctor? It would make sense.

None of us want to go to the U.S. system, where a patient must pay for health premiums or actual costs. The U.S. system provides quick care and it seems it provides good care, but the cost for an uninsured patient can be so costly that low income people sometimes have to decide between buying food or health care. That said, a health care premium and a medical user fee would make sense. And so it would with drugs. 

A national Pharmacare program is really scary. Whenever the government gets involved, the costs skyrocket. This whole process is going to need some debate, but I somehow doubt the ability of parties or politicians to get it right.

Let’s look at another example of how screwed up a government-run program can get. We had an example last week. There was serious highway accident. The alarm was sent in and fire, police and ambulance crews were all dispatched. STARS was called and arrived very quickly, but not quite before the patients were on their way to the hospital by ground ambulance. All good so far. STARS is advised to meet the crew at the hospital. Not good. The hospital in question had a temporarily licensed landing pad, but rules have changed and it can’t be used any more. STARS is re-directed to the airport. Then a third ambulance had to come from somewhere to transport the STARS crew to the hospital and wait for patients.

I am sure that all the rules are well-intentioned and seem to be necessary, but the point is that when you have several layers of rule makers involved, you get confusion and sometimes worse.

Here’s another airport related rule. When a municipality or partnering municipalities respond to provincial rules that say they “must” build a new garbage dump, they go looking for a site. Transport department rules forbid a dump being within several miles of an airport. The theory is that dumps have seagulls flocking there and the gulls could be a hazard to the airport.

Here’s another example that is really stupid. Sometimes, a person becomes homeless and at the same time, needs social assistance. Obviously, provincial housing would be an answer. Not so fast. Before they can get housing, they have to get social assistance. Before they can get social assistance, they have to have housing. Further complicating that, housing and social assistance are in different departments or at least they used to be. Further complicating that, the offices may be in different cities.

When we ask the government to “do it all” for us, we need to be wary of what we ask for. Any time decisions are being made for us by people who have no economic reason to save  time, effort or costs, we are likely in trouble.