Economist says improvements to health care won’t necessarily translate into cuts
Article posted on TheWhig.com by Elliot Ferguson
Don Drummond was careful to start his lecture Thursday by acknowledging that health care is not like other businesses.
But just because it is held as almost sacred by most Canadians, doesn’t mean it there aren’t ways to make it better and more affordable.
“It is different,” he said. “You have to approach it with a much different sensitivity.”
Drummond is the author of a review of Ontario’s public sector services. Released in February, the report included 362 recommendations to help the province reach a balanced budget by 2018 and addressed what he said were inaccurate budgets, spending forecasts and growth predictions for Ontario.
Speaking Thursday night at the Queen’s School University of Business, Drummond said people in Ontario need to put aside the fear that improving the health care system by making it more efficient will translate into cuts.
Drummond said health care costs in Ontario have been increase by 6.5 % a year, a rate the province can no longer afford.
“The public doesn’t want to hear about it all from the perspective of cutting cost. And I think it doesn’t and shouldn’t hear it from the perspective that we’re going to privatize health care,” he said.
Drummond said people in Ontario need to realize their pride in their health care system is based on misconceptions that it is completely publicly funded and that it is the best system in the world.
“As a nation, we singularly compare everything we do to the United States, and we gloat with a certain smugness that we are better than them,” he said.
“Come on, that’s like winning a race going forward when everyone else is going backwards. The United States has the worst health care system in the world.”
Drummond said 30 % of Ontario’s health care system is already privately funded and it ranks lower than those of many Western European countries.
“I think we need to be honest and I think we have not been honest,” he said.
During his consultations while working on his report, Drummond spoke a number of medical associations and other concerned groups.
“My challenge to them all is to rise up among yourselves,” he said.
“If you do not come up and make sensible proposals, a bean counter like me will do it. Bean counters like me did it in 1995 and we screwed it up unbelievably and we’re capable of doing it again.”
“It’s typical Don Drummond,” said Chris Cormier of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union.
“He’s looking for innovation in healthcare and he doesn’t like to answer questions about whether he supports privatization,” he said.
Cormier said Drummond’s talk about finding efficiencies in the health care system equate to reducing spending on front line services for patients.
Cormier said Drummond used a projected growth rate that was too low when he made his financial projections.
Thursday night’s event was the first of what is to be an ongoing series of lectures hosted by the Monieson Centre at the Queen’s School of Business.
The centre’s focus for the next five years is going to be the country’s health care system, said David Saunders, dean of the school of business.
Cover photo by Canada.2020 on Flickr