Public health care depends on federal leadership

January 23, 2003

OTTAWA‹If the federal government fails to get back in the health care game with increased funding, and by using its legal and moral authority to prevent the growth of the private system, it will be undermining Medicare as a truly public health-care system.

That is the conclusion of Canada Health Act? Or Canada Health Inaction?, a report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on the eve of the federal cabinet retreat and next month¹s First Ministers¹ meeting on health care.

By the time the Prime Minister appointed Roy Romanow to chair a Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, privatization was growing steadily in many provinces. This was triggered in part by the provinces¹ lack of resources, and in some instances by provincial governments eager to encourage the development of private health services.

The federal government has both the power and the responsibility under the Canada Health Act to intervene as the guardian of the national health system. It has consistently abdicated its responsibility.

While the Romanow Commission report sets out a framework for curbing the growth of privatization in health services, the funding increases it proposes will quickly be absorbed, and are not sufficient to choke off the demand for private health services.

This is an ideal moment for the federal government to take a strong leadership role against health care privatization. If it does so, it will have wide public support, and enough money to back it up.

An agreement among the First Ministers that does not support the Romanow Commission¹s rejection of the for-profit delivery of health services by affirming Medicare as a public, non-profit system will be a failed agreement.

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