A defining feature of Canada as a nation is our dedication to publicly funded universal healthcare. In recent years, the idea of a private-public partnership in healthcare has been gaining support, as wait times continue to increase in Ontario hospitals and in hospitals across the country.
The debate between public and private options in healthcare continues to be hotly debated, with the introduction of greater public spending on healthcare in the United States with the controversial Affordable Healthcare Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
On March 21, 2014, U of T students had the opportunity to discuss healthcare and watch a debate on the topic of privatized healthcare with speakers Olivia Chow, former Member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina and current mayoral candidate, and Tom Ladd, president of Paladdin Health Group, a corporation that promotes private healthcare options for Canadians. Other panelists included Alfia Karimova, current U of T PhD candidate and instructor; Sara Allin, professor of public policy at U of T; and Sara Labelle, a member of the Ontario Health Coalition and proponent of public healthcare.
The event, advertised as The Future of the Canadian Healthcare System: Question and Answer Conference Event, was run by Health Out Loud, a U of T student group formerly known as University of Toronto Students for Medicare. The annual event began last year as an opportunity to promote dialogue about the Canadian healthcare system among students. This year, the event was held on the St. George campus, at the Earth Sciences auditorium.
At the event, panelists were asked pointed questions to spark conversation and debate. One question posed to Chow was direct in its approach and asked, “Do you think that taxation leads to a better health system?” Chow focused on the preventative nature of many of our health problems, but ultimately concluded that taxation and public healthcare was a necessity.
Tom Ladd, a proponent of private healthcare options, was asked about the implications of private pay options on the Canadian healthcare system, and emphasized the need for patient choice in determining their best healthcare options. Ladd focused on the need for patients to bypass long wait times, if necessary. Currently, private pay options for diagnostic imaging such as MRIs, PET scans, and CT scans are available in British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec. Ladd also considered the ability of private options to alleviate wait times in the public healthcare system.
Other panelists, such as Labelle, countered this point by arguing that while private healthcare options will remove patients from the public healthcare system and thus alleviate waiting times, it will also remove talent and resources from public healthcare systems across the country.