Media Distort Report's Findings on Health Care

TORONTO – Oversimplified accounts of the recently released OECD Economic Survey of Canada wrongly suggest that the international body recommends the introduction of private health care financing and the dismantling of public Medicare. These distortions misrepresent both the tone of the report and the specifics of its recommendations. In fact, the OECD notes that Canadian Medicare “offers top-notch care,” and calls for governments to fund more services to create an even more comprehensive health care system. The report’s comments about alternative financing approaches are comparatively restrained.

The OECD praises Canada’s Medicare system for its cost controls and its focus on equity. The report concludes that the high priority given to equity gives Canada’s universal public health care system “a critical advantage” over the health care systems of other countries. Accordingly, the report notes that Canadians attach a great importance to the Medicare system “as a foundation for shared pan-Canadian values of a just society.”

The OECD does suggest that “modest” health care user-fees might help control some costs, but acknowledges that introducing user-fees could reduce accessibility, especially for those people who need the system the most, namely the very poor and the very sick, and that exemptions intended to address restrictions to accessibility risk creating “poverty traps” that could further endanger the financial well-being of lower income Canadians.

The report considers increased private sector participation “at the margins” of health care, but does not recommend it. Significantly, the OECD recommends creating a national prescription drug plan and a long-term care plan under Medicare to improve access to quality health care.

Far from abrogating Medicare, the report recommends a dramatic expansion of public health care services to improve access and to control the fastest rising costs, which are largely outside the public Medicare system.

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For more information, please contact Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, at (416) 820-7889.