© 2000 Karen Selick
 The Moral Case for Private Health Care
An edited version of this article first appeared in the November 22, 2000 issue of The National Post.  If you wish to reproduce this article, click here for copyright info.



 
 
 

 The Moral Case for Private Health Care


Is it possible that Rogers AT&T Wireless knows something about the Canadian psyche that our political leaders donít?  Rogers has been running television ads in which a zealous young scientist or reporter announces the revolutionary finding that weíre all completely different from one another.  This leads to the conclusion that we all deserve different cell phone plans.   

Our political leaders, on the other hand, are convinced that we all deserve and want exactly the same health care plan.  Do they not believe weíre all different?  Or are they correct in thinking that despite our differences, we all want to be treated like peas in a pod?   

Iím one Canadian who thinks the Rogers idea is on the right track, not just for cell phones, but for health care.  I donít want the same plan as everyone else.  Iíd like one thatís--as the advertisement says--as individual as I am.   

My own existing health care plan goes something like this.  I eat a balanced diet, avoid junk food, get plenty of exercise and adequate sleep.   I keep my weight down, donít smoke, and wash my hands after using the washroom and before touching food.  These are things that anyone can do without adding a penny to their normal budget.   

Then I throw in a few extra measures at modest expense.  Iíve bought some exercise equipment, an electronic scale to measure body fat, a home blood pressure cuff.  I take vitamin and mineral supplements twice a day.  Occasionally, I see a homeopathic practitioner or a registered massage therapist.  

In addition to spending money on my health, I also spend timeóusually four or five hours a week on exercise, plus more time reading books and magazines about nutrition, exercise and medical news.   

As a result of all these measures, Iím very healthy.  I rarely get even a cold or the flu.  Whole years go by without my missing a day of work due to illness.  Usually, I see my medicare-funded doctor only once a year for a check-up.  

In short, I cost the communal health care system next to nothing--only a tiny fraction of what I contribute through my taxes.  I pay for my good health not just with my own after-tax dollars, but also with my time, energy and self-discipline.   

But many people donít behave like me.  About one-third of Canadians are obese.  Their condition costs about $2 billion annually to treat.  Canadaís smokersóabout 31 percent of the population-- run up health care costs of more than $1.1 billion and more than a million days in hospital annually for tobacco-related illnesses.  Experts say inadequate hand-washing causes much of the colds, flu, strep throat and diarrhea Canadians experience.  Alhough thereís still no treatment for the common cold, Ontario alone spends $200 million annually "treating" cold and flu sufferers.  And Canadians on welfare pay nothing into the system no matter how much care they receive.

In the unlikely event of my being stricken by some serious illness, I will have to stand in line for treatment with all these people whose conduct is completely different from mine.  Maybe Iíll die waiting for the treatment that Iíve paid for through my taxes and done my utmost to avoid, while someone else--who has paid far less and who gambles recklessly with his health--gets the treatment that might have saved my life.   

Do I consider this system to be moral, fair or just?  Absolutely not.   

Frankly, Iíve been disgusted by the dogmatic insistence of every political party that socialized medicine represents some kind of moral ideal.   I consider a system that treats its conscientious, diligent, self-disciplined and prudent members exactly the same as its careless, lazy, undisciplined and negligent members to be flagrantly immoral.   

A system that prevents me from spending my own money to save my life, merely to indulge othersí feelings of envy, is wrong.   Why else am I working, if not to give myself the means of improving my life?  

Anyone who wants to abuse his health should be free to do so, but I shouldnít have to pick up the tab.

Medicare apologists claim that equal access to health care is the best system for everyone.  This is clearly false.  Those who are prevented from buying private health services or extra insurance are condemned to a lower level of health than they desire and can afford.  If weíre so determined that no-one have any greater opportunity to achieve good health than anyone else, we might as well outlaw exercise and vitamins too.

If the excuse for health care egalitarianism is that health care is a necessity too important to be left to the vicissitudes of the marketplace, why arenít politicians clamouring to nationalize all the other industries that produce the necessities of lifeófood, shelter, clothing?  

Do they perhaps harbour a sneaking suspicion that socialism doesnít work?  Do they have a faint recollection that this sort of thing has been tried before and has brought countries to the brink of disaster?

The rumours that the Canadian Alliance has a hidden agenda to allow private health care are the only rays of hope on the horizon.  I wish the Allianceóor any party--had the courage to announce that this is indeed their plan--that theyíve finally recognized that permitting health care freedom is simply the right thing to do.
 

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January 31, 2001