March 19, 2005


Canadians face long waits for health care (BETH DUFF-BROWN, 3/19/05, Associated Press)

A letter from the Moncton Hospital to a New Brunswick heart patient in need of an electrocardiogram said the appointment would be in three months. It added: "If the person named on this computer-generated letter is deceased, please accept our sincere apologies."

The patient wasn't dead, according to the doctor who showed the letter to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. But there are many Canadians who claim the long wait for the test and the frigid formality of the letter are indicative of a health system badly in need of emergency care.

Americans who flock to Canada for cheap flu shots often come away impressed at the free and first-class medical care available to Canadians, rich or poor. But tell that to hospital administrators constantly having to cut staff for lack of funds, or to the mother whose teenager was advised she would have to wait up to three years for surgery to repair a torn knee ligament.

"It's like somebody's telling you that you can buy this car, and you've paid for the car, but you can't have it right now," said Jane Pelton. Rather than leave daughter Emily in pain and a knee brace, the Ottawa family opted to pay $3,300 for arthroscopic surgery at a private clinic in Vancouver, with no help from the government.

"Every day we're paying for health care, yet when we go to access it, it's just not there," said Pelton.

The average Canadian family pays about 48 percent of its income in taxes each year, partly to fund the health care system. Rates vary from province to province, but Ontario, the most populous, spends roughly 40 percent of every tax dollar on health care, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Some 527 should just run year round ad campaigns with these stories, so that we never, ever move towards such a system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 19, 2005 4:27 PM

Agreed. Remember, though, that there is always a some rationing mechanism of some sort at work and that the explosion of cutting-edge medical care continues apace. While the cost of any given procedure may very well fall, the total cost of all the care we Americans demand ... as a god-given right ... is headed nowhere but up.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 19, 2005 4:47 PM

So? Money we have.

Posted by: oj at March 19, 2005 5:31 PM

Not in infinite amounts, we don't. And so many other "god-given rights to consume" are in the national psyche. It'll be interesting to watch how we Americans set our priorities. A great many of us still believe in a free lunch, after all, and public subsidies do nothing but encourage that tendency. I totally agree that we should individualize the costs as much as possible, but even health insurance points in the opposite direction ... towards socializing costs.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 19, 2005 7:39 PM

Sure we do. Medicine is just a consumer good at this point, like any other.

Posted by: oj at March 19, 2005 7:43 PM

Not to those who want to compel the rest of us to spend whatever is necessary to keep every person ... from zygote to all-but-brain-dead ... "alive" as long as possible. There's an absolutist feel to that position ... as detected by my hyper-sensistive totalitarian sensor ... that overrides market choices.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 19, 2005 7:48 PM

What market?

Posted by: oj at March 19, 2005 7:51 PM

I have no idea what that question suggests.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 19, 2005 7:56 PM

As the Great Man said, "Anything free is either worthless or turns out to cost twice as much in the long run."

The "free" Canadian health care is both. It's worthless when you need it---because you can't get the help when you need it, and they pay twice--once in taxes and also out of pocket.

Posted by: ray at March 19, 2005 11:06 PM

The 527-campaign is a really good idea. A few million spent there could save bill... trillions, later. More importantly, it would save lives.

Posted by: mike beversluis at March 20, 2005 1:38 AM