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Thursday, 24 May 1973
Page: 2574


Social Security seen a statement alleged to have been made by the Canadian Deputy Minister for Health and Welfare and used by the Australian Medical Association, the General Practitioners Society and professional letter writers employed by Messrs Turner and Cade of the hospitals contribution fund and medical benefits funds who quoted the Canadian Deputy Minister as saying:

We have come to the inescapable conclusion that we have the wrong system.

Has the Minister for Social Security had any checks made on that statement and can he tell us whether in fact that quotation referred to the whole of the Canadian health system?

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - It is true that the various associations and other bodies mentioned by the honourable member have in fact been using this quote, especially the General Practitioner's Society and its Federal President, Dr Peter Arnold. In fact, in an after dinner chat last night with Peter, I drew his attention to the fact that it seemed - inadvertently, I am sure - that the Society and other bodies mentioned by the honourable member were using the quote out of context. My Department has been in correspondence with Dr LeClair, the Deputy Minister for Health and Welfare in Canada, about this quotation which, incidentally, has been used by those bodies in Australia in reference to the Canadian health insurance program. The letter sent by Dr LeClair is a copy of the letter he sent to the Wall Street Journal', which was the source of the quote used in Australia. The 'Wall Street Journal' did not see fit to print his letter, which was written as a protest. Dr LeClair said:

The statement attributed to me that, 'we have come to the inescapable conclusion that we have the wrong system', has been taken completely out of context. When this remark was made I was referring to the health care delivery system being too hospitaloriented (and thus expensive) and not to our major health insurance programs.

The professional letter writers and the people with special interests who are using this quote, also used it in conjunction with a claim of uncontrollable cost escalations besetting the Canadian system of health insurance. These bodies quoted the year 1972 and used various figures indicating increases of 11 per cent or 13 per cent in medical costs. They neglected to point out that in 1972, under our present program of insurance, Australian medical costs increased by over 21 per cent. We would be doing well to achieve the sort of result the Canadians did. These bodies have also made the claim that the Canadian system has led to over-utilisation and unnecessary utilisation by members of the public, so I should make 2 more quotes from Dr Leclair's letter in reference to the McGill and Alberta universities. He said:

The McGill study showed that there is about the same proportion of patients coming to see doctors without reasonable cause' since medicare as before. A study by the University of Alberta found that in that province the average annual rate of physician visits per insured person was not significantly changed as a result of the introduction of universal coverage. These are 'hard facts' based on careful study as opposed to intuitive speculation.

However there is sufficient data to establish that the rate of increase in medical costs is rather less than it was prior to the introduction of the program, but still higher than the rate of growth in Gross National Product.

That faster rate of growth in costs than the rate of growth of gross national product is a problem common to developing economies. I trust that the people who have been using this quote will now correct the wrong impressions they have been creating. I am sending a copy of Dr LeClair's letter to the Australian Medical Association journal in the hope that it will give it equal prominence to the article from the 'Wall Street Journal' which it fully published and which was a complete misrepresentation of Dr LeClair's statement.

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