A Bigger Piece of the Pie

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A Reuters article claims that the Canadian Health Care system, once the pride of Western socialism, is facing financial collapse. Measures are being considered to contain the costs, which threaten to eat up 70% of provincial budgets over the next 12 years.

An interesting cost-saving measure was proposed by Mary Webb, senior economist at Scotia Capital. According to a news article, she said that “patients could be made ‘aware of how much it costs each time they visit a healthcare professional. [The public] will use the services more wisely if they know how much it’s costing.’ ”

The way we used to “make them aware” was by asking them to actually pay the bill. This is essentially an admission of the power of market forces. But in typical nice Canadian fashion, they’re not going to be asked to pay anything; they’ll just be told how much their doctor’s appointment is costing the government, so they’ll feel really guilty about it.

I’m not convinced the idea would work. It’s been my experience that when you get something for free, you’re proud of how much it really would have cost. It’s the same psychology that has grocery stores telling you how much money you saved at the bottom of the receipt. Informing patients isn’t go- ing to control costs; it’s just going to start a war for bragging rights.

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