Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beating a dead horse

This has played out many, many times before over the course of the debate on ObamaCare. And the same thing happens every time: Supporters simply don't want to hear it, so they ignore it.

Still, it plays out again. The latest to try in vain to point out the precedent of the debacle in Canada is Sally Pipes:

[I]t's instructive to consider the Canadian story. It begins in 1946, when Tommy Douglas, the socialist premier of Saskatchewan, secured legislative approval of government-funded hospital insurance for all residents of the province. The federal government followed suit in 1957, funding hospital insurance for the entire country.

Douglas led the way again in 1961, when Saskatchewan became the first province to fund full medical insurance for all its residents. In response, some 700 doctors in Saskatchewan went on strike for 23 days, charging that the Douglas plan opened the door to government control of health care. Several thousand citizens joined them, staging an orderly protest against the new "medicare" scheme outside the legislative building in the provincial capital.

The protests eventually died down, and by 1966, the Canadian government had passed legislation providing money to provinces that followed Saskatchewan's lead. Two years later, they all had.

Proponents of the reforms touted them as a happy medium between the British system, where the government owned and operated hospitals, and the American system, where healthcare services were largely left to the private market. Canada's federal government provided funding to the provinces, which the provinces used to deliver care.

This happy medium soon crumbled. With health care now effectively "free" -- that is, paid for by other taxpayers -- Canadians began visiting the doctor twice as much. Exploding demand drove up costs. To keep spending under control, the federal government simply reduced how much it sent to provinces to run the system. Provinces in turn cut payments to doctors and covered fewer services and cutting-edge treatments.

At first, doctors responded by billing patients directly for amounts greater than the government reimbursements. But in 1984, the federal government outlawed such practices -- thereby banning private delivery of services covered under the Canada Health Act. At this point, the Canadian government effectively controlled health care in the country.

The Canadian experience offers a preview of what Obamacare has in store for the United States.

Will this convince ObamaCare supporters? No. They think that this is a great thing to have happen, and until it actually does, they will not be convinced otherwise.



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