Freedom from Medicare and lower tuition days

Well, another so-called “Tax Freedom Day” came and went on June 12th. To mark the “occasion” I decided to skip over the very serious methodological flaws in the calculation of tax freedom day that others have pointed out, and take a look at some of the items that Canadians are “free of” at various points. By gaining “freedom” from the taxes that Canadians pay we also gain “freedom” from the services those taxes pay for.  I for one am all about more freedom!!

(Let me point out that the back of my envelope got a good workout during these calculations so don’t take them as gospel.)

The first “freedom” day I decided to calculate was freedom from Medicare. By what day did the provincial governments of Canada stop meddling in Canadians’ medical bills and leave them free to pay them out of pocket?

Table 1: Freedom from Medicare Day

Year 1980 1990 1995 2000 2005 2011
Medicare Freedom Date Nov 6th Nov 3rd Oct 24th Oct 19th Oct 15th Oct 13th

Source: CIHI, National Health Expenditure Trends 1975–2011 Table A.3.3.1 & Table A3.2.1 Ratio of public to all health expenditures (This covers hospitals (Operating and Capital), physicians, homecare and prescription drugs but EXCLUDES other professionals (like dentists/optometrists), public health, non-prescription drugs & health research.)

As you can see, since 1980 Canadians have gained almost an entire month of additional “freedom” for which they get to pay out of pocket for their prescription drugs, homecare services and physician services. If you don’t happen to have extra money to enjoy the “freedom” of paying for your prescriptions all year, time to start making “freedom” tradeoffs between rent and medication.

Canadian seniors, who are often the heaviest users of Medicare, are not the only ones who received more “freedom” from lower taxes, students also drank deeply from the chalice of liberty. In the latter case, students gained significant “freedom” from low tuition as governments provided less and less public funding for higher education. The day at which the government stops investing in post-secondary education, and students have to pay the full cost, has advanced rapidly since the late 1980s.

Table 2: Freedom from Low Tuition Day

Year 1989 1995 2000 2005 2009
Freedom from Low Tuition September 19th August 25th July 26th July 19th July 21st

Source: Statistics Canada: Cansim 385-00074 ratio of all government revenue to total revenue

Table 2 shows that in 1989, governments stopped investing in post-secondary education and provided students with the “freedom” to pay tuition on September 19th. By 2009, governments had truly opened the freedom gates by stopping payment to universities and colleges almost two months earlier. Students for their part gained significantly more “freedom” through higher tuition.  Don’t have the money to enjoy your additional “freedom”? Well, there is always the “freedom” to carry heavy debt.

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