Nelson: Health care's survival depends on younger newcomers

Round and round we’ll no doubt go, with the only guaranteed outcome being taxpayers paying more and getting less from a system an ever-growing number of Albertans depends upon

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There were bigger wastes of time than rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs.

After all, moving your seat might have brought a glorious Atlantic sunset into view. You might even have got a jump on the lifeboats.

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That overdone deck chair analogy is often trotted out when discussing the regular restructuring of various health-care systems, even though it fails to capture the resulting mayhem and desultory outcomes that inevitably transpire from these endless changes.

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But when everyone, everywhere demands that elected officials “fix” health care, what’s a politician to do? (Returning from a U.K. visit, I can report the anguish about its National Health Service is currently off the dial, as almost eight million Brits are on some type of treatment waiting list.)

So, new governments invariably announce some massive health-care reorganization, implying the solution was obvious all along, it just needed moulding into a different structure to make all things bright and beautiful down the road — hopefully before the next election.

What few acknowledge is such reorganization will eventually involve the same people doing the same things. We’re not replacing cancer specialists with journeyman plumbers, after all.

Instead of movable deck chairs let’s compare it to that well-loved Mr. Potato Head — you can move those ears, lips and eyes around with glorious abandon, but in the end you’re still left holding a potato.

The latest player in this reshaping-the-face-of-health-care game is Premier Danielle Smith and her relatively new government, which recently announced another complex do-over for our provincial system.

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Round and round we’ll no doubt go, with the only guaranteed outcome being taxpayers paying more and getting less from a system an ever-growing number of Albertans depends upon. And it is exactly that increasing demand that is the real cause of our growing discontent.

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A word of warning: we’re about to go down a rabbit hole no politician will dare follow, because it’ll initially sound entirely unCanadian, even though the logic makes perfect sense.

First, an inescapable fact: those over age 65 take up a huge proportion of health spending and, on its current trajectory, by 2040 that cohort alone will consume more than 70 per cent of health care budgets across Canada. This is our biggest challenge, though it’s rarely mentioned.

Instead, we continue making matters worse by welcoming elderly people as immigrants. Ottawa is currently promoting a new scheme, encouraging yet more parents and grandparents to join younger family members who’ve already emigrated here. It sounds nice — family reunification — but such programs add more demand to a health-care system already near crisis.

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True, such aging immigrants are usually sponsored by their relatives for 10 to 20 years, so costs are supposed to be borne privately. But if these newcomers get sick, as older people more often do, they still need treatment from a system that can’t deal in a timely manner with seniors who’ve lived here most or all of their lives.

But why stop there? Let’s restrict immigration to those younger than 40. They can bring their children with them, of course — after all, those kids will work, pay taxes and contribute to society for decades, before hitting an age where they take out some of what they earlier put in.

Yes, this is purely transactional, but we owe nothing to people currently citizens of other lands. If they don’t like our rules, then emigrate elsewhere, or stay put.

Such a move would boost our economy significantly, thanks to the arrival of so many younger, more productive workers, while health care is saved from eventual collapse as demand is curtailed and tax revenues jump.

We won’t do it, however.

Instead, we’ll make our elderly, who have contributed so much to this country, wait years for treatment when sick or in pain, while we continue endlessly reorganizing the health-care potato.

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Originally posted 2023-11-23 13:00:41.