Canada's Healthcare Identity

Ask a Canadian to define national identity and without doubt, public funding of universal healthcare will come up.

Canada's totally tax-funded healthcare and inexpensive drugs are important to its image of being different from its neighbor to the south. That's why a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this month striking down one province's ban on private health insurance is so momentous.

While the decision's impact on the other provinces is not yet clear, groups which both support or denounce the ruling agree it has the potential to change the face of healthcare in Canada.

The court ruled individuals should not be denied the right to buy private health insurance when the public system fails to provide reasonable service, as it found in the case of a patient who had to wait more than a year for hip surgery.

The court is right that private health insurance will not bring about the demise of public healthcare. Allowing the two approaches, as many Western democracies do, should not be seen as incompatible.

For almost three decades, by law, Canadians allowed the state to define their health plans. Now they face the possibility of choosing whom they consent to for health insurance.

The choice of a public or private healthcare plan creates for a patient a clearly defined path to follow for treatment. The individual, not the government, should choose the path.

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