Sustainability Alliance Sustains Private Interests

The Conference Board of Canada recently launched the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care, another think-tank, funded by the wealthy and healthy, whose purpose is to produce evidence-based approaches to the reform of medicare. This alliance joins a growing number of interest groups that claim to be looking for “alternative” health care delivery solutions — in other words, solutions that involve the use of more private companies. What these groups don’t seem to understand, or maybe prefer not to consider, is that there is significant evidence out there that using private companies to deliver publicly funded health care costs the Canadian taxpayer more money, not less. This is certainly the evidence from our forty-year case study using for-profit private laboratories to provide an essential medical service: not only are they more expensive, they work against health care integration and negatively impact access and quality for patients.

But it is not only laboratories.  Some of the most extensive studies comparing the use of for-profit companies to deliver health care vs. non-profit organizations comes from McMaster University and show that private corporations in the United States increase costs and increase deaths.  Other research in Canada has shown increased cost in building and operating hospitals when private companies are involved and  increased cost and loss of access to surgeries, home care and diagnostic services when the market and private companies dominate.

Rather than trying to square a circle this research money would be more profitably spent, pardon the pun, if it was used to bring private services, like labs, back into the public non-profit system and improve the sustainability, accessibility, quality and democracy of public non-profit delivery.  The main problem with this approach is that the public would benefit and less money would be made by private investors. This is a problem most Canadians could live with.

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