You can’t count on defenders of US health care for much, but you can always count on them to allege that in Canada and other “socialized health care” systems there are long waits for elective surgery. Wait times for a hip replacement in Canada have been alleged as long as 6 months, although I don’t know if that is generally true or not. Whatever the wait times, most Canadians seem satisfied. From Statistics Canada:
The results for 2005 indicate that waiting for care remains the number one barrier for those having difficulties accessing care. Median waiting times for all specialized services have remained relatively stable between 2003 and 2005 at 3 to 4 weeks, depending on the type of care. There were some differences noted in selected provinces. Most individuals continue to report that they received care within 3 months.
Similarly, patients’ views about waiting for care have remained fairly stable between 2003 and 2005. While 70 to 80 percent indicated that their waiting time was acceptable – there continues to be a proportion of Canadians who feel they are waiting an unacceptably long time for care. (Statistics Canada)
Three to four weeks is not instantly, but just try to get an appointment with a dermatologist in Boston or an ophthalmologist in Chicago. That can take 3 to four months even if you have good health insurance. That’s because medical care is rationed in the US by lack of doctors or lack of money. If you don’t have health insurance, well . . .
Adults with no health insurance face waits up to a year or longer for gallbladder or hernia surgery in Los Angeles County, a backlog that community clinic doctors say has worsened since the county downsized Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital last year.
The elimination of most specialty care at King-Harbor, formerly known as King/Drew, has hit Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Torrance the hardest, the doctors say. As the county-owned hospital closest to King-Harbor, it absorbed the bulk of that facility’s displaced patients.
Community clinics rely on five county-owned hospitals to provide virtually all specialty care, including hernia and gallbladder surgery, for their uninsured patients.
With a quarter of the county’s adult population lacking insurance, patients have always had to wait a long time. But delays are growing longer as the population ages and suffers complications from such chronic conditions as diabetes and obesity.
Still, clinic doctors were stunned earlier this month when Harbor-UCLA told them not to send any more nonemergency gallstone, hernia, orthopedic or neurosurgery patients until hospital physicians worked through the yearlong backlog for these surgeries.
“The bottom line is there’s still a year’s wait,” said Dr. Karen Lamp, medical director for the Venice Family Clinic.(LA Times)
Gallstones or hernias are not usually emergencies (although they can lead to emergencies), but living with them can be painful, uncomfortable and risky. A blocked common bile duct or intestinal obstruction are emergencies and they are possible consequences of unattended gallstones and hernias.
So whether there is a longer wait time in Canada or the US depends upon who is in line. As Moore has pointed out, we make the lines shorter in the US by eliminating 44 million of our fellow citizens. Is that a health care system to be proud of?
Or a country to be proud of, for that matter?