Selling medicare can be good for your health

TheGlobeandMail.com – news/opinions/editorials
Published Wednesday, February 2, 2011.

Medicare and entrepreneurship may yet go hand in hand. Some Toronto hospitals are selling cancer treatment to Kuwaitis, though local residents may be on waiting lists for such care. But treating medical expertise as a product for sale to foreign patients makes sense, if it increases medicare’s capacity to offer services to Canadians. If it has the additional benefit of spurring innovation and higher-quality care, as entrepreneurship has been known to do, all the more reason to try it.

There’s a rough parallel here to postsecondary education. Canadian university presidents travelled to India last fall to recruit students. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty have offered postgraduate scholarships reserved for foreign students. The lure is not really about making money directly. It’s about bringing in new ideas, new competition and new talent. But more and more, this country’s public universities will seek money-making and talent-developing opportunities abroad. Why shut oneself off from opportunity, whether it is to learn, to earn or, preferably, both?

The University Health Network – Princess Margaret, Toronto Western and Toronto General hospitals – have inked a $75-million, five-year deal with the Kuwait government to consult on cancer care and provide some complex procedures, said to number 10 or 20 a year. Other Toronto hospital executives are now in the Middle East digging up business. As long as tapping the world marketplace is not treated as an end in itself, but as a spur to increased capacity and expertise for serving Canadians, it’s tough to argue against.

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