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Caring for Profit: How Corporations Are Taking Over Canada’s Health Care System

by Colleen Fuller

Medicare in Canada has been a hybrid system ever since it began in 1968. Governments pay for health care but the money goes to companies, small business people (such as doctors), and non-profit hospitals that provide the services. It is quite different from how medicare is provided in most European nations, such as Britain where the National Health Service both pays for and provides health care (almost all English doctors are employees of the state).
Health policy analyst Colleen Fuller argues in Caring for Profit that corporations are extending their reach in the health care industry and threatening to undermine Canada’s system of universal health care. Fuller’s research was commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and funded by a plethora of big unions. Her book shows a distinctly anti-big-business slant.
In her desire to castigate corporations, for example, she tries to reach conclusions that don’t follow. Consider one of Fuller’s key examples of how corporations are expanding to the detriment of medicare: Increasingly hospitals are handing over functions they used to perform themselves – such as housekeeping and food services – to private companies. True, but how does this hurt medicare? Does it really affect care in a hospital if a private business prepares the meatloaf rather than the hospital itself?
Fuller provides an exhaustive history of the development of medicare, and has clearly done an impressive amount of research, but her work is riddled with arguments that do not add up logically. The truth is medicare in Canada is a government-supported health insurance plan, and its survival is not affected by the extent to which businesses get into providing services. Medicare will only fail when politicians decide to end it – because it is too expensive or for other reasons.