Friday, July 28, 2006

Waiting for The Wait-Times Guarantee

Paul Wells was the first (as far as I know) to write about Stephen Harper's missing priority. One of his five key priorities from the election campaign has been sent down the memory hole. It's the wait-times guarantee, and here's a letter to the Globe and Mail by the Canadian Medical Association about it:

The CMA has their own suggestions about how Harper can remember and fulfill his promise.

I have a plan that's simpler, because it doesn't complicated federal-provincial negotiations.

It's not entirely fair to call it "my" plan, because it's the plan I thought Stephen Harper had promised to legislate. But maybe I misinterpreted his promise... I would be the only one and this wouldn't be the only case.

My Wait Times Guarantee is a simple program. The federal government Wait Times Office will step in to help any patient who has waited too long. If you have reached the medically-recommended wait-time target, and you still aren't being served by your province, then the federal government will ensure you are served somewhere, somehow, immediately and without cost to you. Instead, the federal government subtracts their expenses from your province's health transfer.

First of all, I believe that a wait-times guarantee is necessary. The Supreme Court has said so. Without medical services delivered on time, the ban on private health insurance is a violation of our rights. If the feds ensure everyone gets treated within the medically-recommended time window, then it's all good.

Second, the approach I outlined above seems to me to provide a healthy feedback system to the provinces. They will quickly feel an urgent need to deliver medically-necessary services within biologically-defined time periods. I have more faith in the monetary penalty described here for motivating provinces to get their service levels up than I do in the blood-and-tears penalty that is already been paid in some cases.

Paying the high price of having a resident get served by the federal wait-times office will be painful enough to the provinces that they will eagerly resolve these issues on their own.

Hey, it may be simple but it works. People get care within the deadlines. The provinces are motivated to deliver within the necessary standard. The Canada Health Act is protected from the constitutional argument. No further inter-government negotiations are necessary.


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