Saturday, January 28, 2012

Privatization works! More Americans lack health insurance

January 24, 2012

Gallup reports that the percentage of American adults without any form of health care insurance has reached the highest level since they began tracking coverage in 2008.

In 2011, 17.1% of adult Americans had no health care insurance. That is up from 14.8% in 2008. The percentage insured has declined every year since the report started.

Gallup reports that it asks 1,000 American adults each day about their healthcare coverage and reports monthly, quarterly, and annual averages. In December 2011, the monthly percentage of uninsured adults increased to 17.7%, tying July 2011 for the highest on record.

The USA is leading example of health care privatization in the developed world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Saskatchewan's medicare struggle begins...1962

Medicare: A People's Issue

The year is 1962. A minority Conservative government led by John Diefenbaker clings to power in Ottawa. The American President, John F. Kennedy, announces the quarantine of Cuba. The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. In Saskatchewan the implementation of North America’s first universal healthcare system divides the province.

The Medical Care Insurance Act, passed the previous fall, is set to become law on 1 July 1962. Despite negotiations to ward off confrontation, the gap between those for and against the new system hardens and the province moves closer to a crisis. On the day the Act becomes law, the College of Physicians and Surgeons puts into place its “emergency service” plan. Saskatchewan’s doctors are on strike. The deadlock lasts an acrimonious twenty-three days. In the end settlement is brokered through the efforts of Stephen Taylor, a practicing doctor, a socialist and a Labour Peer of Britain’s House of Lords.

The seeds of the “Medicare Crisis” of 1962 were sown on the 16 December 1959, when Premier T.C. Douglas announced over the radio his plan to introduce a prepaid medical-care program. He listed five principles that would guide the government: prepayments of costs; universal coverage; high-quality service; government sponsorship but administration by a public body responsible to the Legislature; and a plan acceptable to the providers and recipients of Medical Care. In addition he announced the creation of the Advisory Planning Committee on Medical Care or “Thompson Committee”, whose membership was to consist of medical professionals, the general public, the government and the University of Saskatchewan. Representatives of the Chambers of Commerce and Trade Unions were added at a later date.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The premiers want more health-care study? Seriously?

Globe and Mail
January 23, 2012

The huffed and they puffed over health care last week in Victoria - and then they struck two committees

Last week, the premiers of all 13 provinces and territories gathered in Victoria. A key item on their agenda was to discuss the future of medicare in light of the federal government's long-term take-it-or-leave-it health financing deal.

By now the details are well-known: Ottawa will increase the Canada Health Transfer - currently worth $27-billion in cash and $13.6-billion in tax points annually - by 6 per cent per annum until 2016 then tie the increases to economic growth (meaning they will be around 4 per cent a year) for another decade. In the future, Ottawa will dole out the money on a strict per-capita basis, with no adjustments based on the economic status or demographics of the provinces and territories. (There was an equalization formula in earlier deals.)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Informative and compelling online history of medicare

By Heather MacDougall and Dan Gallacher
CMAJ. 2011 January 11

Making Medicare: The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914–2007 ( is a balanced, visually attractive and informative narrative of the slow process of developing and implementing hospital and medical services insurance programs in Canada.

Launched in April 2010 in both English and French, this is the Canadian Museum of Civilization Social Progress Web Gallery’s most extensive online exhibition to date. Its 300 web pages include numerous archival cartoons, photos and links to educational resources. Each “chapter” focuses on a decade with historical information about the social, political and economic issues of the day, many of which continue to dominate public debate. This information is important to young physicians in particular who are interested in the wider context of Canada’s universal health care programs.

The Struggle for Healthcare in Historical and International Context

By Sarah Jarmon
Freedom Road Socialist Organization
18 September 2009

The struggle for universal healthcare in the U.S. has been long and difficult. Since the late 1800s, there have been multiple efforts at reform and revolutionary change. They have been met with much resistance from all sides, for various reasons. Some of the arguments have included:

  • Individuals’ aversion to paying taxes to cover the healthcare expenses of others;
  • The fear of payments to doctors decreasing with a government-run versus insurance company-run system;
  • The self-interested concerns of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies about profits and job security; and
  • The capitalist ideology opposing the concept of publicly-funded healthcare.

Currently, the reaction from the extreme right is cause for much alarm. Recently a sign at a town hall meeting calling for the death of Obama, Michelle, and “their stupid children,” and gun-carrying protesters signify an emboldenment of the reactionary forces. Despite the current manifestation of this backwards and violent upsurge, the movement that labels a national health care program as Nazi, fascist or Stalinist is not new. In fact, in part because Germany was one of the first countries to enact national healthcare, and Germany was fascist (although not when universal healthcare was enacted), there has historically been a knee-jerk reaction in the United States that equates universal healthcare to fascism. Although inaccurate, incomplete and dangerous, this analysis is compelling to many people.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Harper’s health care agenda driven by ‘theory and politics

By Brent Patterson
Council of Canadians
January 20th, 2012

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson writes, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to give money to the provinces without any strings, conditions or demands. It’ll be the first time since medicare began that a federal government has handed money over carte blanche. Broadly speaking, two reasons explain his decision – one theoretical, one political.” Simpson argues, “The politics of his decision have been almost completely ignored, but they’re important for those who think about political angles all the time.”

Theoretical - his view of federalism

“Mr. Harper believes, when it suits his purposes, in a kind of classical federalism wherein the two levels of government more or less stay out of each other’s jurisdiction. He thinks Liberal governments abused Ottawa’s constitutional ’spending power’ to intrude into provincial jurisdiction, especially in social policy such as health care and daycare. Conservatives would rather use the federal tax system, or unconditional grants to the provinces, thereby respecting classical federalism.”

Private delivery of public health a serious threat

By Rachel Tutte
The Daily News
January 20, 2012

The new Health Care Innovation Working Group announced at this week's Council of the Federation meeting in Victoria is a chance for the provinces to build on the many positive public solutions available to strengthen Medicare.

But patients should be concerned by working group co-chair and Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall's comment that suffering patients choose surgery over ideology when receiving the services of a private for-profit surgical facility.

Given the choice between ideology and evidence, responsible policy makers choose evidence. The evidence from across the country is clear: for-profit clinics cost more than public facilities, increase wait times by draining health care workers from public hospitals, and compromise patient safety

Private delivery of publicly funded surgical services is not innovative. It's a serious and increasing threat to our health and our wallets and leads to unequal, two-tier care that most of us can't afford.

Fortunately, evidence-based public solutions are available right now to policy makers who are serious about addressing our health care challenges. The best examples are some of the innovations in home and community care that take pressure off hospital and emergency services right here in B.C.

Rachel Tutte, Co-chair BC Health Coalition

Friday, January 20, 2012

Secure the Future of Medicare: A Call to Care

Canadian Health Coalition
January 2012

Health care in Canada is a fundamental right without distinction of race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, political belief, immigration status, and economic or social condition. Organizations representing millions of Canadians will mobilize to defend this right and to ensure that the following principles shape the direction of the Health Accord renewal:

The recognition of the highest attainment of health as a fundamental right throughout life and the necessity of preserving public health through active measures of promotion, prevention, and protection including such determinants as housing, food safety, income, education, environment, employment and peace.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Harper’s health scheme will mean ‘Goin’ Down the Road’ for Maritimers

Canadian Dimension
January 19th 2012

By dramatically changing the health care funding formula, is Prime Minister Stephen Harper showing little concern for the future of the Maritime provinces?

The Health Accord “deal” that Harper practically threw in the face of the provinces and territories this week, not only cuts health funding for all the provinces starting in four years, but threatens to further widen the growing standard-of-living chasm between the “have” and “have not” provinces.

As their meeting ended in Victoria on Tuesday, the premiers vowed they will pressure the Conservative government to change the least equitable aspects of the so-called take-it-or-leave-it “agreement”. But what if the sometimes stubborn Harper government refuses to give much ground?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Will any government stand up for medicare?

By Thomas Walkom
The Toronto Star
January 18, 2012

Think of the current impasse between Ottawa and the provinces over medicare funding as part of a long game.

On one side is the Canadian public, which overwhelmingly supports the publicly funded, universal health insurance system known as medicare.

On the other are the federal and provincial governments, which, for a variety of reasons (some political, some ideological), find medicare a bother.

They are reluctant to spend the money that a successful health system requires — and even more reluctant to raise the taxes that would fund it.

The future of Canada's health care at stake: Maude Barlow warns of privatization and high-cost drugs

By David P. Ball 
Vancouver Observer
Jan 17th, 2012

The health care discussions by premiers in Canada is about more than about just funding, Council of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow warns. It's about the very future of public health care in Canada itself.

“We have to get the story to the Canadian people,” she said. “A lot of people don't actually realize that what this means, if the government does this, is the end of a federal role in medicare.”

For decades, Barlow has been a well-known Canadian advocate and commentator – on everything from stopping free trade agreements to declaring access to water a human right.

But public health care has always been one of the 64-year old activist's hot-button issues.

The veteran national chairperson of the 100,000-member strong council, sporting a “Medicare” button on her grey suit jacket – sat down with the Vancouver Observer outside a pivotal meeting of the country's provincial and territorial leaders, who are deliberating on a new national health accord as the current one expires in 2014.

On the outside looking in: Indigenous peoples excluded from premiers' health talks

By David P. Ball
January 18, 2012

Photo by David P. BallIs there a link between the tar sands pipelines, the premiers' health conference, and Indigenous rights?

As Canada's premiers and territorial leaders met in Victoria this week to discuss the future of health care -- after the Conservative government pulled back from its medicare role -- no attention has been paid to Indigenous peoples at the talks. All that came out of the meetings were strong words towards Ottawa, and plans to set up working groups on finance and "innovation."

But spoke to two First Nations advocates outside the meeting who said they were outraged by the lack of Aboriginal consultation around the health-care talks.

United Native Nations of B.C. president Lillian George -- from the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in northern B.C. -- and Jerry Peltier, former Grand Chief of Kanesatake Mohawk Nation (near Oka, Quebec), said that all levels of government failed in their obligation to consult and include Indigenous people. Especially, they argued, when it comes to health care.

Here's their conversation with The Left Coast Post today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Many struggle to pay for prescriptions

Globe and Mail
Monday, Jan. 16, 2012

One in four Canadians who do not have drug insurance are unable to afford to take their prescription drugs as directed, a new study shows.

 And, over all, one in 10 Canadians struggle to pay for their drug treatments, even if the have public or/and private insurance, according to research published in Monday’s edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

That means, practically, that millions of patients fail to fill or refill prescriptions, or skip doses to cut costs.

Canadians want feds to play strong role in health care: poll

JANUARY 16, 2012

A strong majority of Canadians believe the federal government has an "important" role to play in the country's health-care system and to ensure provinces are accountable for the money spent on medicare, according to a new poll.

The national survey by Ipsos Reid was commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association, which represents the nation's doctors.

It was released as the premiers gather in Victoria for a two-day meeting to discuss the health-care system. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not at the meeting, but his Conservative government has announced billions of dollars in long-term medicare payments that fall short of what the provinces had wanted, but which carry no conditions on how the funds are spent.

Among the poll's findings:

- 97 per cent of Canadians think the federal government's responsibility for the Canada Health Act is important. In return for receiving federal money, provinces must adhere to the principles of medicare as outlined in the Act. Those principles include accessibility to services, universal availability, and portability from province to province.

- 70 per cent say they are "worried that without accountability to the federal government, provinces will have no incentive to achieve health care efficiencies."

- 88 per cent are worried that "without national standards, Canadians will have different levels of health care depending on where they live."

- 74 per cent believe that health care is a shared responsibility between the provincial and federal governments. Few believe it is solely a provincial (13 per cent) or federal (11 per cent) responsibility.

- 56 per cent are not confident that the premiers will be able to agree on a plan to improve health care in Canada.

- 69 per cent "strongly agree" that they would encourage their premier to "adopt a series of principles that make the health-care system more concentrated on the needs of the patient."

The telephone poll of 1,000 Canadian adults was conducted Jan. 4-9. With a sample of this size, it has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A prescription for health care reform: think integration & collaboration

By Iglika Ivanova
Progressive Economics Forum
January 16th, 2012

This morning the CCPA released a new report (co-authored by yours truly) that looks at the thorny issue of health care reform in BC (and Canada) and identifies some practical, evidence-based strategies that have been successful in improving quality of care and controlling costs in other jurisdictions.

The papers comes out at a time when all Canadian provinces face significant pressure to reduce the rate of growth of health spending while continuing to improve access and quality of care but when there is no agreement on the specific changes needed to ensure that public healthcare dollars are more efficiently utilized. As a result, individual provinces are experimenting with a variety of reforms. In BC, the two major policy options being introduced are an activity based funding (ABF) model for hospital surgical procedures; and an integrated model for caring for people with chronic conditions and complex needs in the community. Though both of these are formally priorities of the Ministry of Health, ABF is receiving the vast majority of the financial resources and technical expertise.

Harper’s plan would kill medicare in Canada

The Harper government has set in motion a strategy that will lead to the unravelling of Canada’s national health system. All Harper has to do is nothing. By abdicating the essential federal responsibilities in health care, the system will fragment on its own into 14 separate pieces.

The Hill Times
Jan. 16, 2012

There is a deficit of political leadership in health care, especially at the federal level. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated in a year-end interview recently that he had no idea how to secure the future of health care in Canada. Instead, he said it is up to the provinces to find “solutions.”

Harper’s recent unilateral, non-negotiable decision on the future of federal health financing stunned provinces. It seems the federal government intends to limit its role to signing blank cheques with no strings attached and no accountability. If rumours on the Hill are true, once the current arrangement expires Harper may replace cash transfers entirely with tax credits.

Romania rebels as health care threatened

By Stef Newton
January 16, 2012

Thousands of protesters waving flags sing the national anthem, ‘Awaken thee, Romanian!’ among burning trash cans and broken windows. No, it’s not historical footage of the 1989 Revolution, but the fourth consecutive day of protests against the Romanian government’s austerity measures.

It all kicked off when Deputy Health Minister Raed Arafat, a widely popular Romanian physician of Palestinian origin, resigned in opposition to a draft healthcare reform bill that represented a partial privatisation of the healthcare system.

Why medicare needs Ottawa

From Monday's Globe and Mail

The federal government has signalled its intention to reduce its role in shaping medicare to writing cheques. This would complete a 35-year journey that began in 1977, when Ottawa first capped its financial contributions to the provinces. At its peak, Ottawa’s share of publicly financed health-care spending reached 41 per cent. Today, its cash contribution is just over 20 per cent.

The provinces run health care and have traditionally welcomed federal cash transfers with few strings attached. So what’s wrong with Ottawa’s self-imposed exile – is it not merely recognition that it has no legitimate role in shaping how the system develops?

Labour calls for Premiers to stand up for healthcare

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Presidents of the Provincial and Territorial Federations of Labour are calling on Canada’s Premiers to reject an irresponsible Federal Conservative “plan” for healthcare. In an open letter from the labour leaders to the Premiers, attending a meeting of the Council of the Federation in Victoria today, the Premiers are asked to stand up and support Canada’s most important social program: universal healthcare.

“We believe, as many Canadians do, that the Harper Government’s December announcement is an abdication of its responsibility,” said Larry Hubich, President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. “Our letter to the Premiers is a call for true leadership on healthcare - leadership that we are not getting from Ottawa.”

As the Federation Presidents outline in their letter, the Harper Government has proposed significant cuts to healthcare funding, beginning in 2017. The announced cuts come after the federal government made the decision to ignore the issue of establishing a new Health Accord, the latest of which is set to expire in 2014.

“In a style that has become typical of the Harper Government, the provinces are going to be handed a take-it-or-leave-it decision without any meaningful dialogue whatsoever. If Prime Minister Harper is not willing to play a leadership role in securing the future of the healthcare system, then the Premiers need to make a stand on behalf of Canadians, on behalf of the values upon which our nation and our healthcare system are founded.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Health Care Accord: Provinces must take the lead

Health centres to Canada's First Ministers: "Collaboration can't wait. Let's achieve Second Stage of Medicare together."

January 13, 2012

The association representing Community Health Centres (CHCs) across Canada is again urging federal, provincial and territorial leaders to focus on collaboration and innovation to improve health care and Canada’s overall health system.

On the occasion of the upcoming meeting of Premiers from across the country in Victoria, BC, this week, the Canadian Alliance of Community Health Centre Associations (CACHCA) is calling on the federal government to take its seat alongside the provinces and territories in negotiating a meaningful health accord for Canadians. In the meantime, the association is urging the Premiers to use their time together in Victoria to carry this process forward, focusing on collaboration and priority-setting in health care across the country’s jurisdictions.

Harper's Health Transfer Plan Offloads Costs to Provinces: Budget Officer

By Heather Scoffield
The Canadian Press
January 12, 2012

OTTAWA - Parliament's budget watchdog says the new health-care funding formula will slowly reduce Ottawa's support for medicare, but it will also put the federal government on a solid fiscal footing for the future.

The trouble is the provinces will have to shoulder a growing health-care burden over the long run and they can't afford to do that without cutting spending elsewhere or raising taxes.

Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer, crunched numbers from the federal government's recent announcement on how health care will be funded until 2024. He projected costs and revenues out to 2040-41.

Ottawa needs to fix medicare

By Stan Rice
The StarPhoenix 
January 13, 2012

Rice is a retired pharmacist and health-care administrator, who has experience in developing a drug formulary for the Saskatoon Community Clinic.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated in a year-end interview that it's up to the provinces to fix the problems with medicare.

Yet lack of federal coordination and guardianship means that more and more Canadians lack access to comparable services in primary health care, prescriptions drugs, home care, rehabilitation and long-term care. Harper's unilateral action on future federal funding indicates that Ottawa no longer will take any responsibility for ensuring that all Canadians receive universal quality health care.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Crisis in care: Ontario pioneers the privatization of long-term care

By Justin Panos
Briarpatch magazine
Nov 1, 2011

A pill trolley rattles urgently as it makes its rounds in one of Ontario’s many long-term care homes. The support worker pushing it looks visibly exhausted, while a nurse practitioner moves stressfully under the imperatives of time and patient needs, tending to the unwashed, unshaved, undressed, unturned and unfed.

Ontario’s long-term care homes, which provide 24-hour nursing services to chronically ill residents who require some form of basic assistance for daily living, suffer intolerably from an understaffing crisis.

As the pioneer of privatized care in Canada, Ontario has opened the doors for a corporate takeover of long-term care homes, resulting in chronic understaffing by profit-seeking multinational providers.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Harper's hands-off stance a threat to health-care system, unity: Romanow

By Mark Kennedy
Postmedia News
January 8, 2012

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper must join Canada’s premiers at the negotiating table to discuss medicare reforms or the country’s public health-care system will grow weaker, medical privatization will spread and national unity will be imperilled, says Roy Romanow.

The former Saskatchewan premier, who led a royal commission on health care a decade ago, made the comments in an exclusive interview with Postmedia News.

Romanow said he is worried the Harper government has adopted a deliberate strategy to leave health care to the provinces — possibly to foster the development of more private, for-profit medical companies.

Tommy Douglas on YouTube


Visit the Tommy Douglas YouTube page HERE.

Your Right to Health : Saskatchewan CCF (1960)

Medicare: A People's Issue

Friday, January 6, 2012

Medical bills cause 62 percent of American bankruptcies

By Joan McCarter
Daily Kos
Thu Jan 05, 2012

A study released Thursday [pdf] by the American Journal of Medicine finds a huge increase—nearly 20 percent—in medical bankruptcies between 2001 and 2007. Sixty-two percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were tied to medical expenses. Three-quarters of those who filed for bankruptcies in 2007 had health insurance.

Using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92% of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5000, or 10% of pretax family income. The rest met criteria for medical bankruptcy because they had lost significant income due to illness or mortgaged a home to pay medical bills. Most medical debtors were well educated, owned homes, and had middle-class occupations. Three quarters had health insurance. Using identical definitions in 2001 and 2007, the share of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6%. In logistic regression analysis controlling for demographic factors, the odds that a bankruptcy had a medical cause was 2.38-fold higher in 2007 than in 2001. […]

The assault on universalism: how to destroy the welfare state

Martin McKee and David Stuckler
December 20, 2011

Martin McKee and David Stuckler watch aghast as American examples are followed to destroy the European model of the welfare state

Christmas is a time to count our blessings, reflecting how they came to be. For people living in England this reflection is more relevant than ever, as the coalition government paves the way for the demise of the welfare state. This statement will be seen by many as reckless scaremongering.

The welfare state, not only in Britain but also throughout western Europe, has proved extremely resilient. How could any government bring about such a fundamental change?

To answer this question it is necessary to go back to the 1940s, when Sir William Beveridge called for a national fight against the five “giant evils” of want, disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness.His call secured support from across the political spectrum. Although he sat in the House of Commons as a Liberal, his plans were implemented by a Labour government, and continued under successive Conservative ones. The reasons for such wide ranging support varied but, for many ordinary people, the fundamental role of the welfare state was to give them security should their world collapse around them.

Read more HERE.

Medicare in Saskatchewan: A nation building event

Coast Reporter
January 6, 2012


While I agree with Keith Maxwell (Coast Reporter letters, Dec. 30) in the general sense that commemorating historical events is important, I differ with him on the choice of raising the profile of the War of 1812 to the exclusion of other events. The War was between the U.S. and Britain and occurred when the Americans perceived a British weakness given a war in Europe. It was the first, but far from last, American imperialist adventure. No one “won”, but there was a clear loser. The Native people lost the opportunity for an autonomous indigenous region in the British colonies, and the conflict opened the way for the genocides carried out in the American West.

It may also be asked why other milestones are not given equal status. The year 2012 marks the 175th anniversary of the rebellions in both Upper and Lower Canada. The 1837 rebellions were the Occupy movements of the day and paved the way for responsible government and the formation of Canada. It will also be the 50th anniversary of both Medicare in Saskatchewan and the opening of the TransCanada Highway — clearly nation building events.

The only explanation for glorifying 1812 is the Harperite desire to “remake” the Canadian culture into the type of jingoistic, militarist cesspool we see in other countries. C’mon MP Weston: explain how a colonial war is more important than responsible government, health care and a major breakthrough in linking the country’s transport system.

Paul Johnston, Roberts Creek

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Health care belongs to all Canadians

Williams Lake Tribune
January 05, 2012


Residential care and Medical Service Plan fees, hikes, and the introduction of convalescent care fees have added to the financial burden of seniors.

In many respects we are back at the beginning when Tommy Douglas​ began the campaign against privatization and had the vision to make health care a public service for all, regardless of their income. It is time to revisit the original principles of the Canada Health Act.

In September 2004 the federal Liberal government announced a 10-year action plan on health. This accord expires in two years, and one has to ask what has been accomplished. The action plan was based on principles of universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness, and public administration. It promised access to medically necessary health services when they are needed, based on need, not ability to pay.

From my vantage point as a retired person, I would have to say not much, if anything, has improved. We have federal and provincial governments that have been silent on the encroachment of privatization in health care.

Assisted living and residential care has been delivered to the private, for-profit sector in a disproportionate ratio to publicly funded models of care, which has left many seniors and disabled unable to afford care.

Provincial health ministers and Leonna Aglukkaq, minister of health for Canada, meet in Victoria Jan. 16-17, 2012 to continue their discussion of the 2014 Health Care Accord. Health-care advocates will also gather to make their point that the health-care system under discussion belongs to the citizens of Canada.

It is important that all citizens begin now to inform themselves of the issues and join their voices with other advocates about what the future of health care in Canada should and can be. We need to do this for ourselves, but more importantly for future generations.

Let us not disappoint.

Audrey MacLise
Chair of the Seniors Advisory Council of Williams Lake and Area

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Preserve Medicare

By Anne Morris
Salmon Arm Observer
January 04, 2012

MP Colin Mayes tells us that the federal government is reviewing the Canada Health Accord and that the current health-care system “is not sustainable.” He says that “solutions, whether they are tied to private delivery or public delivery,” need to be found (Dec. 21). This should raise a red flag for Canadians who value our public Medicare system.

Canada’s current Health Accord expires in 2014, and the federal government is preparing for negotiations with the provinces and territories on a health-care accord for the future. Private interests are lobbying to expand for-profit health services for the wealthy. The Harper government wants to oblige by convincing Canadians that our current system is unaffordable and that increased privatization is the answer.

But two-tier health care has been proven to increase costs and also wait times for those of us who can’t afford private health care. Furthermore, if private for-profit hospitals are permitted in Canada, American HMOs will rightly claim that under the North American Free Trade Agreement, they too have a right to establish themselves in Canada. Do Canadians want American-style health care? I think not.

The federal government can afford a well-funded, enhanced public health-care system if it chooses to do so. Cancelling the planned purchase of 65 F-35 stealth fighter-bombers, would free up $30 billion to invest in health care over the coming years, and cancelling the planned tax cut to corporations would yield another $6 billion.

A recent report from the international Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, (cited in the same issue of the Observer), states that income inequality in Canada is rising, and that it is not market forces but federal and provincial government policies that are increasing this inequality.

Medicare is an equalizing force in Canadian society in that it is designed to provide quality care to everyone, regardless of income status. Let’s keep it that way by saying ‘no’ to the Harper government’s smoke and mirrors campaign to persuade us that Medicare is unaffordable.

Doctor: Health care can survive baby boomer 'tsunami'

CTV News 
Video HERE.
January 4, 2011

The growth of Canada's labour force will slow to a crawl over the next two decades as an increasing number of baby boomers leave their working days behind, according to a projection by Statistics Canada.The growth of Canada's labour force will slow to a crawl over the next two decades as an increasing number of baby boomers leave their working days behind, according to a projection by Statistics Canada.

Canada's aging population has been called a "tsunami" that could eventually swamp our public health care system, but a health care expert says the true threat is an inability to adapt.

Dr. Michael Rachlis, a medical doctor and analyst, believes that aging and ailing baby boomers won't break the public purse in the coming years.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Unsung Heroes of Health Care Show: CBC Radio

By Dr. Brian Goodman
White Coat, Black Art
CBC Radio, Nov. 11, 2011
When you think of hospitals, you probably picture places staffed by nurses and people like me.  The image is far from complete.  There are countless others who toil in healthcare's shadows.  They have job titles like service assistant, lab technician and respiratory therapist.  Explaining what they do can be hard to do at cocktail parties.

But make no mistake:  these are people who look after you with skill and compassion.  And sometimes, they mean the difference between life and death.

This week, we walk in the shoes of the unsung heroes of health care.  We tell their stories - doctors and nurses need not apply.  I visit a hospital where I meet a professional who keeps your breathing when seconds count.  I talk with a clinic receptionist who cheers you up as you wait nervously for test results from your doctor.  I chat with a case manager who - more often than not - finds a way to keep seniors and others with chronic illness and disability living at home.  We also meet a hospital employee who stayed at her post at the hospital when others were fleeing for their lives.

To listen now, download the podcast.

Meet the new 1%: healthcare CEOs replace bankers as America's best paid

No bankers in top 10 of America's best-paid executives, but those in charge of healthcare and drugs firms are in the money

By Dominic Rushe
14 December 2011

Joel Gemunder, CEO Omnicare "earned" $98 m.
Pity Wall Street's bankers. Once the highest-paid bosses in the land, they are now also-rans. The real money is in healthcare and drugs, according to the latest survey of executive pay.

There are no bankers in the top 10 of this year's GMI survey of CEO pay. In fact, they have been out since 2007, when Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein competed for the top slot with Richard Fuld, boss of soon-to-be-bust Lehman Brothers, and Angelo Morzillo, head of Countrywide, once the largest sub-prime home loan firm.

With the bankers still recovering from their tussle with hubris, old age and infirmity were 2010's boom businesses – at least in terms of pay. Leading the pack was John Hammergren, chief executive of McKesson Corporation. The firm's 52-year-old chairman, chief executive and president took home $145,266,971 in 2010.

McKeeson is probably the biggest company you've never heard of. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company is the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America, distributing a third of the medicines used in the US. McKeeson's sales topped $112bn last year.

Hammergren's next closest rival was Joel Gemunder, outgoing boss of Omnicare, where he had been president since 1981. Omnicare is a pharmacy company that dispenses drugs in nursing homes – among other services – and had sales of $6.15bn last year. When Gemunder started at the firm it had sales of $150m. His 2010 total pay package was worth $98,283,242.

CVS Caremark, which operates 7,000 pharmacies across the US, awarded chief executive Thomas Ryan $68,079,823 in 2010. Caremark's share price was $71.70 on 1 May 1998, when Ryan joined the firm, and ended 2010 at $34.29.

Ronald Williams, boss of health insurance giant Aetna, made $57,787,786 in 2010. Another recipient of a golden goodbye, Williams made $50.4m on his stock options last year. Williams is one of the US's most prominent African American business leaders, and has campaigned against healthcare reforms that would have introduced a government-backed public insurance option to compete with private insurers. Since he became CEO, Aetna's stock price declined by 70%.