Clement takes cautious--but necessary--stand on "double dipping"
Any voters swayed in past elections by an alleged "Conservative hidden agenda" on health care should probably be scratching their heads today, wondering, "what was the fuss about?"
On 30 July, the Canadian Medical Association released a policy paper suggesting that allowing physicians to work simultaneously in the private and public systems--a practice commonly referred to as "double dipping"--would help to reduce wait-times by acting as a "safety valve".
Today, Conservative Health Minister Tony Clement replied, "no dice."
"Any collection of doctors are entitled to their opinion and there are many things we agree with them on, but on the issue of physicians having a dual practice or two-tier system, we're not going down that road," Clement said.
Clement admitted that "double dipping" is good for doctors financially, "It's quite lucrative for physicians to be partially in and partially out because they can in effect top up a guaranteed income with a private income as well."
According to Canadian Healthcare Coalition coordinator Michael McBane, it's not so good for public health care. "If we allowed doctors to have a dual practice, there would be no incentive for them to fix the public system."
"That's a conflict of interest," he added.
The entire matter really underscores the primary dilemma of parallel-system health care delivery: how to ensure that quality of care in the public system remains on par with that of the private system. Allowing doctors to "double dip" would allow them to devote a disproportionate amount of their time toward their private practice, while only using their public practice when the private practice is slow.
It quickly becomes clear that any attempt at building a parallel-delivered health care system would have to be heavily regulated. However, regulation essentially requires bureaucrats, and that's something Canadian health care could stand to have fewer of.
There is also an ethical bridge to be crossed for "double dipping" doctors. Less scrupulous doctors could potentially defraud the public system by billing it for work already performed and paid for through the private system. While most doctors wouldn't do this, some are bound to give in to temptation, and the last thing the Canadian health care system needs is another serious scandal.
Until a satisfactory regulatory framework can be discussed and drawn up, "double dipping" is probably best left as something looked down upon at parties.