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Learning from Australia's experiment with two-tier health care

November 25, 2010

Re: “It wouldn’t kill us to look at Australian Health Care” (Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail, November 24, 2010)

Jeffrey Simpson thinks that Canada would benefit from the kind of parallel private health insurance system that Australia has adopted. Canadian and Australian health policy experts do not agree. A group of researchers at Australian National University published a paper called “Parallel Private Health Insurance in Australia: A Cautionary Tale and Lessons for Canada,” in which they say that if Canada were to adopt an Australian-style system the potential costs savings would be very limited, there would be no simple way to regulate private insurers to pursue public objectives, and wait times in the public system would likely not be reduced. A separate study published in the Australian Health Review found that wait times in the public system increased as physicians were drawn out of the public system to serve the wealthy patients in the private system. Mr. Simpson is right that we have much to learn from Australia, but contrary to his view, the biggest lesson is that we should avoid the introduction of parallel private health insurance.

Dr. Alan Katz, Central Region Representative, Canadian Doctors for Medicare

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