Private health care is inevitable in Canada.
Does that sound crazy? Decades ago, socialized medicine became an iconic institution in the country. It wasn’t just the establishment of “free” healthcare for all, but an existential “right” created by a loving government. At long last, the little people were going to be saved by a kind and benevolent provider.
But all that will soon come tumbling down at long last. According to the most recent budget proposal by the government of Newfoundland, health care costs are expected to account for nearly $3 billion of expenditures. The next, closest expenditure is about $850 million to service the already accrued debt. Every other cost, from education to road repair, is well under the cost of medicine. Health care costs are so high, they are expected to take up nearly a third of total expenditures. The picture isn’t very different across the rest of the country. In fact, in 2011 health care spending and debt servicing accounted for over 50% of Ontario’s budget.
No self-respecting economist, policy wonk, or politician can look at that figure and assume everything is going smoothly. With Canada’s aging demographic, costs are only expected to keep going up. Taking on debt is beginning to become costly as well, with servicing the debt becoming a large expense.
Beyond the alarming growth of health care costs, one must also evaluate the performance of this bloated system. Just this week, the Commonwealth Fund ranked Canada’s healthcare performance 10th out of 11 wealthy countries. Canadian health care provision failed to rank higher than 7th, on any of the report’s 11 measurements. Not only does Canadian health care underperform on quality, safety and timeliness, it costs significantly more. The higher ranked wealthy nations of the world spend, on average, $200 less per person than we do in Canada. And what do all of these high ranking countries have in common? Legal private healthcare.
We’re in a vicious cycle that has no choice but to eventually stop. No government can keep borrowing money to pay for increasing costs forever. Sure, the federal government can print money to their heart’s content. But loads of currency quickly lose value and legitimacy in the marketplace – not to mention setting in place the inflationary business cycle.
Basic economics says you can’t get something for free. As much as those who defend the system hate to admit it, this rule applies equally to socialism. When governments attempt to coordinate resource allocation, the result is always a disaster. There’s a reason the Soviet Union collapsed and China was forced to liberalize its economy. Mises pinpointed the problem a century ago: economic calculation is only possible in a system of private property and prices. Progressives are still catching up to reality. Their health care system is destined to fail and the evil private marketplace will be left to pick up the pieces.
Stein’s law says that if something can’t go on forever, it will stop. That about sums up Canada’s socialized health care system. It’s barreling towards an end that few people want, but will have to endure. The only hope is enough individuals will recognize the truth: the collapse was caused completely by the government. Then we can start anew.