What are we to think of hospital insurance? Is it a good thing, this new law, which will be effective here in New Brunswick beginning next July 1 and which, from January 1, has obliged all citizens to register?
What precisely is hospital insurance? Well, in the first place, it is a premium which must be paid. Yes, each citizen of 19 years and over must pay $2 each month to the provincial government starting July 1.
And to make certain that you don't miss any payments, you are forced to register yourself as of now. The government also obliges all employers to register their employees; it obliges municipalities to register families, proprietors, tenants and roomers.
So for the moment we have established that hospital insurance is just one more tax, a tax of $2 loaded on to the backs of all citizens 19 years and over. This tax is called an insurance premium, but this is a misnomer. A premium is something freely paid. I am free to take out insurance against fire or for my life. When I contract to insure myself I agree to pay the price, or the premium. This payment is rightly called an insurance premium since it is freely paid.
But the government's hospital insurance is obligatory. I am obliged to pay for it. The price pay is not a premium but a tax, since it is obligatory imposed by the government, enforced by the threat of fines and imprisonment.
So it is quite evident that starting July 1, 1959, all the citizens of New Brunswick will have to pay $2 a month more in taxes.
And what was the origin of this new tax? Who voted for it? The Conservative government at Fredericton? Are we to believe that the representatives, the Conservatives, have had the nerve to inflict a new tax on the people, after all their beautiful promises and in spite of the fact that they know only too well the extreme poverty of the poor people of New Brunswick — the people whose interests they are supposed to represent?
Yes, that is just what happened. The parliament at Fredericton has established an additional tax of $25 a year to be levied on each adult citizen. But, you will say, those M.P's who spoke on the radio, like Lucien Fortin, and those who spoke in the legislative chamber, like the Hon. Edgar Fournier last week, all say that this tax, of $25 each a year is a good thing, wanted by all the people, because it will assure you all the hospital treatment you need, free.
It is a fact that today the cost of hospitalization is very high. The unfortunate one coming out of the hospital today is greeted with a bill whose size is enough to send him to the grave along with the other members of his family! There is no end to paying off these bills, even for families with good incomes. The hospital bed, the operation room, medicines, etc. cost you everything but a pound of your flesh.
Such a financial situation is the source of the deepest worries, of despair, even. So when politicians and newspaper men speak of hospital insurance they present it as a great benefit, as if it were free hospital service. And the poor people, struggling with these unmanageable hospital bills, are only too ready to believe that the government is going to relieve them of the burden of paying for medical care.
But this happy illusion soon bursts like a bubble. People discover that, after all, you really do have to pay. And what makes this latter situation worse than the first, you have to pay even before you get into a hospital — in fact, you must pay even if you never go near a hospital, $25 a year, each citizen! That's your free government hospital insurance.
Just as in private insurance, so too in government insurance, you must pay the premium. In that respect there is no difference between the two. And you pay more for government insurance. Private insurance gives you much better service and without the danger of political patronage creeping in, as is always the case with government services. So why should the government poke its fingers into private business? The private insurance companies are doing a very good job; why should the government go into competition with them? For it is competition. When the state steps in and takes the place of private enterprise, this is statism, socialism — even communism!
There are some who will object that many people are too poor to be able to afford private health insurance. Then why does the government force them to take state insurance with a premium as high or higher than those of private insurance? What sort of a solution is this? If the people are too poor to pay for private insurance how are they going to pay for state insurance? And there is that big difference — I am not obliged to take private insurance. I am obliged to pay premiums when the government goes into the insurance business. I am too poor to pay for private health insurance, so my problem is solved by forcing me to pay for state health insurance!
But, say our members of parliament, the poor will not be obliged to pay. The poor! Which poor? When is one too poor to pay? At what point does your wallet commence to be that of a poor man? When you have enough to buy one loaf of bread though your hunger requires two loaves. Though in that case, if you can afford even one, the government will judge that you are not too poor to pay for its insurance. It is no easy matter to judge whether one is, or is not, too poor to be able to pay. The government must pass judgement in each case. So again we have the ugly spectre of socialism. The individual no longer has a private life. The government investigators and bureaucrats make it an open book. The person becomes a thing of the state.
Consider the case of a man who owns a small house. He will never be judged too poor to be able to pay the state health insurance premiums. So he will be obliged to pay this $50 a year $25 for himself and $25 for his wife and his children under 19. That makes $50 a year in hospital taxes, in addition to his other school and municipal taxes. And he is probably already behind in his payments! The small property owner hasn't very much money. Money doesn't grow on his lawn or in his cellar.
He may have a house or a farm, but money he does not have! He certainly cannot afford the extra expense of hospital insurance. So the municipality which is charged with collecting this tax will have no other recourse but to seize his property as it does with arrears in other types of taxes. For, after all, hospital insurance is just another form of taxation.
Such an eventually is most repugnant. And yet, is not the whole procedure most repugnant — the registration (compulsory), the classificaction, the enforcement of something which should be left to the choice of the individual, the investigations, the pryings, the prosecution and all of this under the pretext of caring for our physical ailments. It is a gigantic hoax perpetrated by governments which are rapidly becoming socialistic; it is just one more means of tying the bonds of servitude a little more tightly about the people. This law must be repealed wherever it is in force. Let those who are energetic and aggressive take the first step. And that step is to contact your panliamentary representative either by telephone or mail. Pressure him! That's what he is in parliament for; to yield to the pressure you exert on him.
But then, how will we pay our hospital bills? Let the government issue dividends to each and every citizen; dividends based on the credit of the country, issued by the Bank of Canada. With this dividend we shall be in a better position to pay our medical bills than if the government robs us each of $25 a year.
As for the hospitals themselves — they need large sums of money to build and to keep going. Well, why shouldn't the Bank of Canada be obliged to finance the construction of new hospitals through the issuance of new credits without interest rates? Instead of making the people pay off the hospitals debts through hospital insurance. It is a fact that many people fight so strenuously for obligatory health insurance because it is the only means whereby the hospital debts can be paid off. Each and every citizen helps to liquidate these debts with money from his own pocket. The ministers, provincial and federal, say this openly: "We are going to pay off the hospitals' debts through health insurance". And so that poor, bedevilled little fellow, John Q. Citizen is called upon to add still further to the staggering load of debt.
Were the Bank of Canada to finance hospitals by the issuance of credits free of interest charges, there would be no debts, there would be no taxes.