Canadian Medicare is not socialized medicine
What’s the one thing many of us Canadians take pride in about our country?
Canada is among the numerous countries that have public healthcare, but even our system has room for improvement. Progressing towards socialized medicine could result in a medicare system that offers better-quality care through increased physician-patient time, reduces diagnostic errors, and possesses passionate healthcare physicians.
At one point or another, we’ve been, or been with, someone who praises the Canadian medicare system due to its universal, public insurance for all of Canada’s residents.
There are various positive aspects to our system, and I’m sure we are all thankful we don’t have to pay large sums of money in order to receive medical care. Additionally, the state of our southern neighbours healthcare system only reinforces the notion that our’s is superior.
However, a public healthcare system is not a perfect healthcare system.
Many individuals term Canadian medicare as “socialized medicine,” but that is an incorrect definition. Dr. George D. Lundberg, the editor-at-large for Medscape, defines socialized medicine as “a healthcare system in which the government owns and operates healthcare facilities and employs healthcare professionals, thus also paying for healthcare services.”
Canadian medicare is similar to socialized medicine, but there is one major discrepancy: healthcare professionals in Canada are self-employed individuals, rather than government employees.
This grants them the flexibility to determine their hours, number of patients seen, and work location, as well as the responsibility of paying their employees. Contrarily, a government-employed physician would have restricted control over these factors.
Since Canadian healthcare professionals are unable to directly charge their patients for the services they provide, they are paid through the fee-for-service payment model. Physicians bill their provincial government for the services they provide to patients. As a result, Canadian medicare is simply individual private providers billing the government for publicly funded services, which is contrary to the structure of socialized medicine.
The primary issue with the fee-for-service method is that it motivates doctors to see as many patients possible within a working day. Physicians are able to bill the government for each patient they see, so by providing care for more patients, they will earn a higher income. Some provinces, such as BC, have a daily patient cap that limits how many people a doctor can see in a day, but this could still motivate physicians to meet the limit in order to obtain maximum income. A higher number of patients per doctor means less time per patient.
According to the Canadian Medical Association, the average hours worked by a physician per week, excluding on-call, was 33 hours. In BC, the daily patient cap is 50, so if a doctor was seeing 50 patients per day, about eight minutes is dedicated to each patient. Numerous people would agree that after the time spent waiting to receive medical care, eight minutes is not sufficient enough.
Increased physician-patient time could decrease number of medical errors made.
A telephone-survey study done in Alberta reported that 37.3% of respondents claimed that they or a family member had encountered medical error while receiving healthcare. About 94% of them agreed that one way this could have been prevented was if doctors spent more time with their patients, and this is highly possible. Errors could be reduced if Canada adopted socialized medicine; doctors would not be incentivized to see a high number of patients because they’d paid on a salary basis, and as a result, would have the opportunity to spend more time with each patient.
Money-oriented individuals tend to pursue highearning careers, such as medicine, despite not having much interest in the field.
Not all physicians are in the medical field simply for the sake of receiving high pay, but people aiming for financially-strong careers may turn towards jobs in medicine, law, and business. If Canadian medicare evolved into socialized medicine, physicians salaries may be reduced and result in a lower income. However, this could ensure that those entering the medical field are doing so because they are passionate about medicine, and this could potentially increase the quality of Canadian healthcare.
Unfortunately, Canadian medicare is not socialized medicine.
Noor Crar is a student from British Columbia