Toronto Sun: Health smoke & mirrors


How nice that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government wants to buy out seven private MRI and CT clinics across Ontario. Now for the big questions.

How much is it going to cost us and how will it improve public access to MRI and CT scans?

As a health ministry spokesman noted yesterday, these clinics aren’t like those in Alberta and Quebec where you can buy your way to the front of the line.

In Ontario that would be (and always has been) seen as a violation of the Canada Health Act.

The province doesn’t allow it. So what we really have here is an ideological move dressed up as a promise to improve the public’s access to health care, which it won’t.

McGuinty did promise in the last election to bring these clinics into the public fold. But to do it, he’s going to use the proceeds from a broken election promise, the one he made about not raising our taxes. Instead, he’ll use a portion of the billions he’s raising from that new health tax he imposed on us on July 1, to buy out these clinics.

Ironically, it was a previous Grit government that established the legal basis for these clinics in the first place.

As Conservative leadership contender John Tory noted yesterday, then premier David Peterson’s Liberal government passed the Independent Health Facilities Act in 1988. That allowed private clinics to provide X-rays, blood work, ultrasound, etc., paid for through OHIP.

The Tories simply added MRIs and CT scans to the list.

Now, the Liberals are going to buy out the MRI and CT clinics, but not the others. What’s the point? Again, these aren’t facilities where you can use your credit card to go to the front of the line. Their services are covered by OHIP.

McGuinty’s announcement will please those who believe, purely for ideological reasons, that all health care services should be provided by the public sector. But it will not increase or improve public access to the system.

Nor will it stop “the rich” from queue-jumping, because the province doesn’t allow them to queue-jump now.

As Tory MPP Frank Klees, who’s also running for the Conservative leadership, pointed out, it seems McGuinty’s first major investment in our health care system courtesy of his new health tax, will be to make a purely ideological point about health care — public good, private bad — without making it better. Indeed, since 30% of our health system is privately funded, McGuinty, using this logic, could blow all the cash he’s raising through his new health tax, without actually improving the health system at all. Scary.