Mr. White (Middlesex East):
The Canadian people are well aware of the need for some measure of this kind. The very fact that 70 per cent of the Canadian people are now covered by some type of insurance indicates the extent to which they are interested in this subject, and demonstrates the hope that a co-ordinated scheme with the provinces might in some cases reduce the cost.
I do not think anyone should labour under the impression that this is going to be free. Someone is going to pay for it, and who could that be but the taxpayers of the country? The increasing cost of illness makes this measure imperative. I was very much interested in what was said this afternoon by the hon. member for Lanark who, in dealing with the subject of the increasing cost of illness, said that whereas the average patient per day cost in 1947 was $7.46, it had risen to $14.64 in 1954. I was speaking to the hospital authorities in my home city just last week, and I was informed that the per patient per day cost was something over $15 in that particular hospital last year.
We are glad that some form of universal coverage will be provided. I am inclined to doubt the wisdom of the statement made by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, who said that the greater part of the cost should be borne under a plan that would take it from those with the greatest ability to pay. He mentioned the corporations and large companies. What happens in a case like that is that their contribution becomes a part of the operating cost of the company, which will be added to the cost of the goods they sell and the consumer will be the person who pays ultimately, not the corporation. I do not think that plan is practical, and probably it is not as fair as many other schemes which could be proposed.
Many middle class people are fearful of rising hospitalization and medical costs, which in some cases are ruinous. I am going to cite
two or three illustrations. These cases were brought to my attention just last week end when I was home. In one case a child was in hospital for seven days, and the Middlesex county co-operative medical services were carrying the risk. They paid the cost of hospitalization up to $7 per day. The cost of the room per day was $7.50 so in this case the family was charged only a total of $3.50 for the room. The unfortunate part of the case was that because of the rather peculiar type of illness the diagnostic and special examinations, including X-rays and tests of one kind and another, amounted to $154, or $22 a day for the period of seven days during which the child was confined to hospital. Although the family believed they were covered with insurance, they learned that their total costs were $157.50. That same family last year also had other medical expenses amounting to approximately $500. This is one case of which I had personal knowledge.
I was inquiring about some other cases, and learned of one near my home. The child involved was confined to hospital in St. Thomas. The parents, who were young farmers, received a bill amounting to $2,200. They had to put a second mortgage on their farm, and only after many years were they able to pay the bill.
I know of a similar case in which the breadwinner of the family, a working man, was stricken and the costs of his hospitalization and treatment amounted to $2,400. Following his recovery the man and many of the men who worked in the plant with him sold their blood in order to help eliminate the debt against him. This serves to point up how necessary it is to have some scheme of this kind.
It is well known, of course, that those in the higher income brackets can afford hospitalization and medical care and those in the townships and municipalities are taken care of, but the vast majority of middle class people find this an extremely difficult situation to meet.
We come now to another problem having to do with nurses and nurses in training. There is no doubt that with the inauguration of a plan of this kind there is an increased demand for hospitalization. I am told that the experience in other countries and other provinces has been similar to what we found with the introduction of television, when the attendance at theatres dropped off; and that is that with the inauguration of such a plan there is a high demand at the beginning, which levels off as time goes on. We know there is a shortage of nurses at the present time. A girl getting her matriculation may
enter hospital for training or she could enter teachers' college, where upon graduation she might earn anywhere up to $3,400. It might be pointed out that the supervisor of nurses at a hospital will receive about $3,500. There are probably not enough of our young ladies being attracted to the nursing profession.
Another matter to be considered is that not all hospitals have the same standing. I am thinking now of London, where we have a medical school whose students may attend the hospital to receive valuable experience and training for their medical careers. Some hospitals provide nursing training and others do not. These are some of the details with which no doubt the Minister of National Health and Welfare and the ministers of health in the various provinces will find it necessary to deal.
I would cite the case of a man in Ontario becoming seriously ill and being sent to the Montreal neurological institute. Until such time as Quebec enters the scheme the question would probably arise whether he would be eligible under this plan. That is something else that will have to be worked out. There is no doubt that the same coverage will be extended to all hospitals regardless of the type of training they may provide.
Some mention was made in the newspapers about the possibility of one or more of the existing health plans in the province being made the administrative core once the act came into force. I think I read something in the paper to the effect that some of the officials of the Blue Cross might provide this administrative core. I wonder about the advisability of that, because there are many other worth-while groups, and I am thinking particularly of P.S.I. and Associated Medical Services. Then I might mention that we have in Middlesex county the Middlesex co-operative medical services which provides health insurance at cost. I have looked into that plan and I find it is most comprehensive, being provided at a much more reasonable figure than that of the Blue Cross. No one organization has a corner on good ideas or on administration.
Perhaps I should not mention the Blue Cross in that way, because it has been said that they operate on 5 per cent of their income. I heard someone mention a 40 per cent cost, so I do not want anyone to get the impression I am against the Blue Cross because of their cost of administration, since I realize that a 5 per cent cost is fairly moderate.
There is another thing which we as Canadians should not overlook, and that is that in practically every province or nation where a health measure has been introduced it has
been found necessary to increase the rates. This is understandable, because we know that we learn by experience and rising costs due to the inflation that has been going on all over must be considered. We hope we will be able to level off, but if the inflation envisaged by the Gordon report continues we can look forward to ever-rising costs all down the line.
I do not wish to speak further, as there have been many hon. members, including the hon. member for Lanark, who have spoken on behalf of this party. But I do want to say that I think the vast majority of Canadians have been expecting and hoping for a plan of this kind for a long time, and we hope the minister will get on with the legislation.
Topic: AUTHORIZATION OF PAYMENTS FROM CONSOLIDATED REVENUE FUND