The Future of Our Healthcare System
by Cam Mather
In a previous post I suggested that our public infrastructure is in need of a lot of repairs and governments haven’t been setting aside the necessary funds. What about our personal infrastructure and by this I mean maintaining our bodies? For many of us as we get older we’re going to start relying on the healthcare system more and more. So how’s it going with the healthcare system?
In the U.S. you have a system of private healthcare that’s outrageously expensive for many Americans, to the point where 50 million Americans don’t have healthcare. President Obama has been trying to create a system that will provide affordable insurance for everyone but he seems to be encountering rapidly increasing resistance.
Here in Canada we get pretty smug about our universal healthcare. And why not, it’s a fantastic system, and we chose its inspiration, Tommy Douglas, as The Greatest Canadian. But are we going to be able to maintain it in the future?
In preparation for a presentation I did this past fall I researched what was happening provincially. In 1999 when our Premier was Mike Harris, the province spent $18.9 billion on Healthcare. Ten years later in 2009 we spent $43 billion. So I asked people in the workshop, does this look sustainable to anyone? Does anyone think we can continue to grow our healthcare expenditures at 7% a year?
What’s happening federally? In 1998 the Federal Government transferred $60 billion to the provinces for healthcare. In 2009 it was $129 billion. Shall I ask again? How long do we think we can keep this up? Government revenues are not growing at 9% a year. In fact to get elected our current Prime Minister, who is an economist, did what every other economist in the country said was a stupid idea and cut the GST. So let’s see. Government revenues going down. Just one component of expenses going through the roof. And there are going to lots of other areas screaming for money too.
And now the really scary news, the baby boomers are just starting to hit the age when they’re really going to start using the system. The reality is that the bulk of health care is spent on the last years of people’s lives and we’re about to have a huge bulge of the population enter that stage of their lives.
What we need to be having right now is really tough discussions about how we can maintain the systems we put into place many years ago. They’re about to start crumbling under their own weight and from the lack of attention.
The 50 million Americans without healthcare have already had to come to grips with this. Millions more have inadequate protection. All my experiences with the Canadian public healthcare system have been great, but I sense the days of us being able to maintain current levels of service are over.
Sorry for the reality check, but you need to come to grips with the fact you’re going to be increasingly on your own in the future, just like your grandparents were generations ago. So get healthy. Eat your vegetables. Grow your own vegetables. Get a bike. Start walking. Eat less animal products and move your diet to a plant-based one. Give up the gas-powered lawnmower and get a push mower. It’s all related. Everything you do to prepare for the end of cheap oil will also make you healthier. You can either embrace reality or let it hit you like a freight train.