Canadians need to look seriously at assumptions underlying current direction of health reform

AIMS’ releases first in series of health policy background papers

[HALIFAX] —  The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), today released the first two papers in its Health Care Reform Background Series.

Profits and the Hospital Sector: What does the Literature Really Say?, explores the anti-for-profit bias in the public debate on health reform and concludes that there is, in fact, a considerable amount of evidence to show that there is no systematic differences in efficiency between for-profit and not-for-profit hospitals. The role that for-profit health care providers can play in the health care system should therefore concentrate on those areas where such providers enjoy comparative advantages over public sector providers, not on irrelevant ideological preferences for not-for-profit provision of health care.

“The sub-text of much of the opposition to for-profit hospitals is the concern over making money at the expense of sick people.” says AIMS author Brian Ferguson, professor of health economics at Guelph University. “The literature clearly shows this to be an unfounded concern, not-for-profit hospitals and for-profits are equally committed to delivering health services efficiently and cost-effectively. For-profits don’t cut care, they cut costs – just like not-for-profits.”

AIMS’ author David Zitner, Director of Medical Informatics at Dalhousie University, goes farther, “The debate about public or private supply of health services misses a critical point: as long as the Canadian government is in a clear conflict of interest as both regulator and insurer the problems with the system will persist – regardless of who actually provides the care.”

In Canadian Health Care Insurance: An Unregulated Monopoly, Zitner outlines how the government has abandoned their regulatory authority to ensure people receive the care they need. The government’s ability to play that regulatory role effectively is hampered because, as the ultimate provider of health care services, government is actually being asked to regulate itself – an impossible conflict of interest. “For health care in Canada, avoiding compliance with standards for access, comprehensiveness, portability and universality becomes a focus because compliance represents a cost and revenue is allocated based on political negotiation, not results,” says Zitner.

As the first in a series of background papers in health reform these papers set the stage for the upcoming unveiling of AIMS’ Alternative Royal Commission on Health Care Report at the Ontario Hospital Association’s Annual Conference in Toronto on November 19, 2002.


For further information, contact:
Brian Lee Crowley, President, AIMS, 902-499-1998
Brian Ferguson, 519-824-4120
David Zitner, 902-494-3802