Two tiered health-care good

By Greg Ellis

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

-Sir Winston Churchill

During the last few months the lurking omen of two tier health-care did a vanishing act, and each time it reappeared the debate was more contentious. Without mincing any words, I must admit I was starting to cheer for the away team. It wasn’t that I did not sympathize with the experts and the impassioned monologues that carved the slopes of the alarmist mountains. Sure it may be slippery slope, but there were many risks in the desert of unknowns, and the debate over the matter of a two tier, privatized health-care system needed an injection of relativity. Who were they kidding anyway? A two tier health-care system? We live in a two tier society.

The sayings are so obvious they begged me to endure the hysteria and dare suggest that a health-care system envisioned with the Hippocratic Oath at heart had long ago been replaced by Dom Perignon at the bedsides of the ICU. Such is not the case, and somewhere in their own foggy reasoning lies an important realization. It’s comic that we’re up in arms over the inequity of the rich having access to greener pastures–this is the case in every other facet of society. Cars, vacations, defense lawyers, houses, interest rates, clothes, food and education are already available in their highest quality to the highest bidder. Being rich is advantageous in more than one arena, so why is health-care delivered at a premium any more abject than access to Johnny Cochrane or quadruple-ply toilet paper.

Perhaps it’s the last refuge of the commoner. The Pollyanna notion that despite the best efforts of everyone, the wealthy have front row tickets to the crucifiction, fly first class to the Las Vegas recreation of Paris, and smoke cigars rolled on the supple thighs of virgin Cuban children. While the need for health-care is fundamental, there’s no reason why profit motive shouldn’t affect it as well. Going over the income statements of pharmaceutical giants Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer (combined profits of $11 billion in 2005) I must say that if capitalism has not already invaded medicine then I am somewhere outside the loop.

That said, the fears of the two tier system cannot be completely discounted, however, just because the rich will have access to better health-care does not necessarily mean the current system will violently implode.

The inherent problem is the current system is oddly reminiscent of self-defeating protectionism. If the two tier system is lambasted by the notion that it will be unaffordable for almost everyone then I must say everyone needs to go back to first year economics. By the same means of competition the new providers prices will eventually come down and for those who place a premium on their health, with a little rearranging in the monthly budget (less Starbucks and Lu Lu Lemon), the superior system may just be affordable for the many.

Universal health-care is a beaut- iful concept, one that speaks to the hearts and minds of the deep rooted compassion of the average Canadian. But that same nationalistic makeup has never been one to deny the luxuries to those willing to pay for them.

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