- 63% "would be willing to 'pay out of pocket' to gain faster access to medical services for themselves or their family members."
- 55% "of Canadians agree with the Supreme Court decision that they should have the right to buy private health insurance if the public system cannot provide medical services in a timely fashion."
- 73% "believed that the ruling was a step toward creating a two-tiered health-care system in the country."
The polling firm concludes that Canadians want flexibility.
So, despite Mr. Martin's assertion that nobody wants two-tiered health care (Globe & Mail, Martin vows strong, universal health-care), 55% want it for when the public health care system fails, and 63% are willing to pay if given the option.
An argument against this has been presented in the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada:
In 2001, 31 per cent of Canadians said they supported a “two-tiered” or “parallel” system when this option was framed as relieving pressure on the existing public system. Various questions have been asked of the public regarding privatization and two-tiered health care since 1998, and despite intense media coverage during this period on challenges to the system, support for private models has never inched beyond one-third of the Canadian population.
It goes on to indicate that 73% of Canadians support it when the system fails:
Yet, the report also found that most people are “sensitive to the desire among many Canadians to spend their own money if they are facing a lengthy wait for treatment.” When asked if people should be allowed to have the option of using private health facilities, with their own resources, if they cannot get timely access to the public health care system, 73 per cent of respondents responded affirmatively.
What does all this mean?
The Supreme Court ruling has cut through the left wing rhetoric of "private health care is bad". When faced with a rational and cool presentation of the potential merits of a parallel system, Canadians naturally react positively.
At least two-thirds of Canadians (between 63% and 73%) still believe that a parallel system can relieve the maladies plaguing the current health care system, and more than half are willing to pay out of pocket to make their lives healthier.
We should debate the merits of a parallel system with the understanding that nobody is suggesting that we shut down the public health care system. Stifling the debate is costing us.
Canadians want flexibility.