A tough pill to swallow.

I’m having lunch with some new American friends at a seminar in Denver when the topic of health care comes up.

The U.S. system is changing and health care costs are being increased to employers. This is a tough pill to swallow during a full blown case or recessionitis.

Companies are reacting to control costs by reducing health care coverage and increase the portion paid by the employee. Many people who lost their jobs also lost their employer sponsored health care coverage.

Some people estimate that upwards of 30% or more of the U.S. population has inadequate or no health care coverage. Although ‘title 19’ and good conscience ensure most people receive treatment.

Is the Canadian health care model better? Not really. We have national coverage – or quantity – of health care that the U.S. does not have at this time. I think this is our major strength: quantity. However, our ease of accessibility is actually a weakness because our emergency waiting rooms are half-full of people with conditions that could and should be treated by a walk-in clinic, in my limited, personal, unscientific experience.

Canada could reduce its health care costs, decrease stress on over-burdened emergency rooms and increase patient service and health by attaching a walk-in clinic t0 every emergency room in the country.

Although our quantity coverage is better than some other countries, our quality is inferior to the U.S. in many respects. In Canada, we cover many major emergencies such as heart attacks quite well. And we have some great specialists. We’ve had family members receive great treatment for very serious conditions.

However, if you have something surgical or complicated or potentially complicated wrong with you, the waiting list to see a specialist in Canada can be months and the waiting list for some routine surgeries can be over a year. In the U.S., if you have insurance coverage, you will typically see a specialist within a week and have surgery, if required, the next week. The U.S. excels at quality.

So, if you break your arm or have a heart attack, Canada is a pretty good place for treatment. If you need a specialist or a surgeon, I hope you have access to the U.S. system.

Canada’s obsession with national health care is a disease that needs surgery. Critics who say we shouldn’t have a dual health care system with private, for-profit clinics are ignoring the reality that we already have such a system – we just go to the U.S., or to the growing number of private clinics in Canada. Profit isn’t a four letter word, it promotes efficiency, and it pays taxes that support the ‘free’ health care.

Strategically, Canada is trying to be in the ‘all things to all people’ health care business. That’s not strategy. That’s the absence of strategy. Too many tax dollars and not enough accountability enable that condition. In business, a lack of strategy doesn’t work. It’s not working in Canadian health care either. Waiting lists are too long, facilities are over-utilized for the wrong service by the wrong customer, and overall health suffers.

Strategy is about taking a clear leadership position and delivering value to your customers. Value is more often found in quality, not quantity.

And, we’re burning out our dedicated and skilled doctors and nurses. Who’s going to take care of them?

Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved. Phil Symchych.

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