I had to sign after I read this article about health care in Saint John this morning. The provincial government spends $2.5 billion on public health care in New Brunswick. The average household in New Brunswick spends another $2,000+ out of pocket on health care (around $500 million in total) and, yes, even companies pay for health care through sharing health insurance premiums and other costs. I don’t have an estimate for company/organizational health insurance payments but I would estimate it must be at least in the couple of hundred million dollar range.
Conservatively, the health care system in New Brunswick is costing us about $4,300 per person or about $13,000 per household every year. To put that in perspective, the average household pays just over $10,000 for the cost of shelter each year and another $10,000 in personal taxes.
In addition, we have been pouring new money into the health care system at rates 2-3 times the growth of the economy and private wage growth for over a decade.
So when the doctor says the “health-care system that is more concerned about the bottom line than anything else”, it confirms my belief that we need to have a serious and rational public discuss about this in a hurry.
I have written on this in the past so I won’t spend too much time on it but the thesis is simple. There is no other government expenditure where the proponents can play the life or death card. In addition, in public surveys doctors still are ranked near the top of the most respected list while politicians rank near the bottom. It’s a toxic mix of fact, fear and respect that leads governments to shovel more and more money in every year at unsustainable rates.
It’s one thing to battle the ‘unions’ or the ‘construction lobby’ or the ‘rich elites’. It’s another thing entirely to battle the doctors over life and death issues.
I will repeat my view that the doctors themselves need to help us figure out how to control health care costs. We need to agree on some broad framework for cost escalation tied to GDP growth or as a hard percentage of the provincial budget – it’s approaching 40% of the total budget now. If we were to fix health care at 40% of the budget (less debt service) what would that look like?
It’s a shame that we can’t have a civilized discussion about this without people using the life and death card.
Now, before I end this, I will say that my comments here have nothing to do with the specific situation at the SJ hospital. I don’t know enough about it to say one way or the other. My problem with this narrative is ease of which the doctors use the fear card:
“If you roll the stone into the front door of the emergency department, you’ll save a lot of money. Same thing in the operating room.”
That’s a $3.2 billion stone, sir.