The slow march to a federally funded and provincially administered hospital services insurance plan reflected the nature of Canadian federalism and the changing attitudes of the medical profession and its supporters with regard to government involvement in the health care system. Strong public support enabled federal politicians to continue to pursue national standards in health services, and the evidence provided by the Canadian Sickness Survey and the statistics produced by the hospital plans in Saskatchewan and British Columbia clearly indicated that Canadians expected accessible, affordable curative care and were prepared to turn to governments to achieve it. But ranged against such beliefs were hospital and medical associations, life insurance companies and individuals who rejected government action on the grounds that it represented interference in both the marketplace and the doctor–patient relationship. As William Anderson, Vice-President and Managing Director of the insurance company North American Life, said in 1954:
What most people who favour compulsory health insurance fail to realize that it is a Trojan horse. They fail to discern that under a superficially attractive exterior it hides the forces which will destroy their freedom of choice and import a full-fledged system of state medicine into their midst . . .However, I can sympathize with those who are taken in by this wolf in sheep’s clothing since I regret to recall that it was only a decade ago that the life insurance companies and other interested groups went on record before a special Parliamentary committee as being in favour of a comprehensive and compulsory health insurance scheme for all people. . . . Greater experience and familiarity with health insurance have bred a maturity of thought which concludes that compulsory health insurance cannot be separated from state medicine and socialism. (Health Insurance and Canadian
Public Policy, pp. 194–95)
In contrast, when Premier Douglas of Saskatchewan introduced his government’s proposal to add medical services insurance to its well-established hospital insurance program, he argued:
The measure of abundance and greatness [of this province] is not just its farms, uranium mines, oil wells, factories, or its steel mills. These things are a means to an end and not an end in themselves. In the final analysis the greatness of this province will depend on the extent to which we are able to divert a reasonable share of wealth production . . . to raise the standard of living of our people, and to give them a reasonable security against old age, against sickness and other catastrophes. (A. W. Johnson with Rosemary Proctor, Dream No Little Dreams: A Biography of the Douglas Government of Saskatchewan, 1941–1961 [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004], p. 240
Whose views would prevail at the next stage, when medical services insurance moved into the political arena?
Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010