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A few ideas for health care reform
Monday, 22 February 2016 - 10:45am
Will Canada’s health care system be there for you when you need it? Think about that question for a moment.
Experts predict tremendous pressure will be put on our health care system as our population gets older and older each year; largely due to the baby boom generation and a drop in the birth rate. But don’t blame the boomers, it’s just a fact of life that as people get older, they require more expensive health services and use the system more frequently. Governments need to plan accordingly.
At the Manning Centre Conference later this week, political-types will discuss possible solutions to keep Canada’s health system sustainable. However, it’s also important for the public to discuss the situation. After all, you want the system to be there for you when you need it…right?
Here are a few ideas to help keep our health system afloat.
First, consider an initiative proposed by Scott Kellock, a Calgary businessman. For almost a decade Kellock has written to Alberta Health Services and encouraged them to put up some billboards on the hospital parkade it owns beside the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Calgary. Kellock has noted revenue from ads or sponsorships on the parkade could help pay some of the hospital’s bills.
Incredibly, instead of acting on Kellock’s great idea, AHS asked him to stop contacting them. Kellock estimates AHS has easily foregone over $1 million in revenue over the years.
Now think of the revenue nation-wide if government-run hospitals used their assets in a more entrepreneurial manner; whether it be tasteful advertising or forming other innovative partnerships to help pay for our health care system.
Next, consider that government hospitals often run cafeterias that sell things like chocolate bars, sandwiches and soft drinks to the public. Did you know those cafeterias often lose millions of dollars each year?
In 2013, while working for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, I released research that showed government-run hospital cafeterias in Manitoba lost $4.5 million between 2010-2012. In Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Ontario, media reports have shown government-owned Tim Hortons franchises in hospitals have also lost millions.
What’s the solution? Well, one hospital in Winnipeg actually turned its $186,851 loss in 2012 into a small $25,591 profit in 2013. They did it by partnering with a private food company to handle the service instead of having bureaucrats manage the operation. Imagine the savings nation-wide if other hospitals followed suit.
Finally, consider an idea with enormous potential.
In the United States, the grocery chain Safeway introduced financial incentives for its employees for not smoking, keeping a healthy weight and maintaining good cholesterol levels. According to Safeway’s CEO, by giving employees a financial incentive to live healthier lives, people took better care of themselves.
Back in 2009, Safeway’s CEO noted smoking and obesity rates among their employees were 30% lower than the national average. Further, during a four-year period, the company’s per capita employee health costs remained constant while many other companies saw their costs increase by 38%. Imagine if Canadians had the incentive to take better care of their lives.
To be sure, these three ideas only scratch the surface for ways to improve our health care system. Try asking your politicians what they think.
- Craig works for the Manning Centre and is the Author of The Government Wears Prada. Twitter: @colincraig1
This column was published by Sun newspapers on February 22, 2016 (Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Calgary Sun & Edmonton Sun)