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Ontario has been having a conversation about the privatization of healthcare. Proponents of privatization will point to the egregiously long wait times many Ontarians face for many crucial, potentially life-saving procedures. If the public system is failing to provide timely healthcare to those who need it, what harm is there in allowing those with the means to go around the overwhelmed public system and purchase their own care with their own money?
As we discussed in an earlier post, many Ontarians are finding themselves even without access to a family doctor. As of March 2020, up to 1.8 million Ontarians did not have a family doctor! The public system, as it is, is failing to meet the healthcare needs of Ontarians.
But is privatization the answer? It’s not necessarily the cheaper option. Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show that a knee replacement in a public hospital costs about $10,000, while the same surgery in a private clinic can cost patients up to $28,000. The past decade has seen B.C. and Quebec reverse some outsourcing to private clinics, bringing those procedures back into the public system due to the costs being lower compared to the privatized options.
Canada spends about $7,500 annually per person on healthcare, whereas the United States — with much higher reliance on private healthcare delivery — spends more than $15,000 per person annually on average. If the higher costs of the privatized system delivered better outcomes, one might consider the tradeoff worth it… except Canadians enjoy a longer life expectancy than those in the United States!
We obviously are facing problems in our healthcare system, but privatization isn’t the cure-all. Instead, Ontarians should demand that the effective systems we already have receive adequate funding to deliver the world-leading level of healthcare that we are capable of achieving.