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Profit Is Not the Cure: A Citizen’s Guide to Saving Medicare

by Maude Barlow

Activist and author Maude Barlow is committed to saving universally accessible, publicly funded health care in Canada. The title of her new book, Profit Is Not the Cure, is an immediate tip-off as to how she feels this should be done. “Privatization, in any form,” she states, “is the death knell of medicare.” Her stated motive in writing this book is to arm grass-roots supporters of anti-privatization, many of whom feel intimidated by health care “experts” and need relevant information to hold up their end in an argument.

While Barlow has produced a well-researched and clearly written study of a complicated issue, it is also entirely one-sided. It isn’t that Barlow’s numerous warnings about the continuing erosion of medical care and potential dangers of for-profit facilities are wrong. But we’ve heard most of them many times, along with the horror stories and the tales of hardhearted, greedy American HMOs. What we need now is a fresh practical perspective, some creative new ideas, and an open mind to all possible reforms.

That our medicare system is in desperate need of funding is not at issue. But is an ongoing attempt to coerce additional transfer payments from the federal government (Barlow’s proposed remedy) our only alternative? Is it reasonable, or even desirable, for the government to continue to increase health care spending for an unlimited period of time and at an exponentially growing rate, especially given Canada’s aging population? And what exactly would prevent a limited degree of privatization, closely controlled and monitored by government agencies, from relieving our financially overburdened system and promoting an improvement in health care services?

Barlow, honing to her one idea, never asks these questions, but perhaps that was not her intention. Profit Is Not the Cure will enable concerned Canadians to hold up their end in the health care debate, but will not give them much in the way of seeking out any remedies beyond the few presented here.