People who support our current abominable health care system like to cite Canada’s supposed failures as an example of what could happen to us. The argument is a non-starter—it’s a straw man designed to scare people. We are a very different country, with a different economy and different needs. Even with a single-payer system, we are unlikely to have the exact same successes and failures as the Canadians. Still, the Right has latched on to any lie they can to try to scare us. That’s why a recent article from my hometown newspaper is so upsetting.
Any of us who have practiced medicine near the border have seen Canadian patients—not a lot, but some. I’ve heard very few horror stories, but that’s not the point. The point is the fundamental idiocy of people in the mainstream media trying to write about this.
The article give examples of how the Canadian system uses ours to provide some services. The key point here is not that people were denied services—they were not:
“I go to the hospital in Windsor and two hours later, I’m done having angioplasty in Detroit,” he said. His $38,000 bill was covered by the Ontario health ministry.
So he got the needed procedure in a timely fashion because of cooperation between the US and Canadian systems. What’s the problem here?
I think people don’t realize that our system has certain limitations. From the same article (emphasis mine):
Agreements between Detroit hospitals and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for heart, imaging tests, bariatric and other services provide access to some services not immediately available in the province, said ministry spokesman David Jensen.
“Bariatric” refers to obesity-related disease. In the U.S., where obesity is a horrible problem, we have basically no services for prevention and treatment for obesity. Very few insurance plans cover these services, and government plans almost never do. If you have excellent insurance and need bariatric surgery, you’re probably going to have to wait one to two years while you follow a comprehensive program (often paid for out of pocket) to show that you’ve tried to lose weight. Then the insurer may consider paying for the surgery.
If you have Medicaid, you can forget about getting any help for obesity. You can get care for some of the complications of obesity like diabetes, but you’ll still have to pay more than you can afford for diabetic testing supplies and other necessities.
Our system isn’t as wonderful as we think it is. The reported waits for MRIs and joint surgeries seen in other countries? Have you ever tried getting an MRI or getting an operation without insurance in the US?
Our system is unworkable as it stands. Single payer. It works for Medicare. Why not for the rest of us?