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What's the Good in Having Health Care If You Can't Use It

The Canadian system is held up by American liberals as an example of what the US should do regarding health care reform. If that is what you think, take a look at what these folks had to endure once they became really sick under Canada's health care system:

In Ontario, Lindsay McCreith was suffering from headaches and seizures yet faced a four and a half month wait for an MRI scan in January of 2006. Deciding that the wait was untenable, Mr. McCreith did what a lot of Canadians do: He went south, and paid for an MRI scan across the border in Buffalo. The MRI revealed a malignant brain tumor.

Ontario's government system still refused to provide timely treatment, offering instead a months-long wait for surgery. In the end, Mr. McCreith returned to Buffalo and paid for surgery that may have saved his life. He's challenging Ontario's government-run monopoly health-insurance system, claiming it violates the right to life and security of the person guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Shona Holmes, another Ontario court challenger, endured a similarly harrowing struggle. In March of 2005, Ms. Holmes began losing her vision and experienced headaches, anxiety attacks, extreme fatigue and weight gain. Despite an MRI scan showing a brain tumor, Ms. Holmes was told she would have to wait months to see a specialist. In June, her vision deteriorating rapidly, Ms. Holmes went to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where she found that immediate surgery was required to prevent permanent vision loss and potentially death. Again, the government system in Ontario required more appointments and more tests along with more wait times. Ms. Holmes returned to the Mayo Clinic and paid for her surgery.

On the other side of the country in Alberta, Bill Murray waited in pain for more than a year to see a specialist for his arthritic hip. The specialist recommended a "Birmingham" hip resurfacing surgery (a state-of-the-art procedure that gives better results than basic hip replacement) as the best medical option. But government bureaucrats determined that Mr. Murray, who was 57, was "too old" to enjoy the benefits of this procedure and said no. In the end, he was also denied the opportunity to pay for the procedure himself in Alberta. He's heading to court claiming a violation of Charter rights as well.

Canada's system is probably fine if you're a healthy person and use the system only for physicals, vaccines, and preventative care. But if you become seriously ill or suffer from a chronic disease, good luck. You'll wait a very long time for treatment or you may be flat out denied treatment by government bureaucrats. That's really too bad for Mr. Murray. Don Surber notes:

You can be darned sure that no one told Ted Kennedy last year he was too old to enjoy his brain surgery. He was 76 at the time.

You can save money or you can save lives. Government cannot do both, and I am not really sure that it can even do one.


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Comments (21)

Two brothers, age 76. One ... (Below threshold)

Two brothers, age 76. One in Canada, 4 month wait for quadruple bypass surgery over 400 miles from hometown. Arrives, his surgery was cancelled, he could wait in motel for another cancellation, or return home and wait for more months. He eventually got the surgery. Two years later, his American brother has stress test and is immediately hospitalized locally. Four day wait to clear the Plavix from his system, and quadruple bypass surgery is successfully performed. The brothers are my uncle and my dad. I'm also retired military and have dealt with military medicine. In the early 1980s, there was a nine months wait for active duty to see an Ortho doc for wrist pain... turned out many years later to be severe carpal tunnel syndrome, which, with identification, would have allowed me to change my behavior for my daily hours on a computer. I also became severely sensitive to aspirin and other NSAIDS since I was misdiagnosed by the regular doc as having Rheumatoid Arthritis. When I was pregnant, I would have different doc for each appointment and of course, when I delivered... at the same time people in Virginia were outraged that women on welfare would have to change their docs once during their pregnancies. Metered medicine causes choices to be made that bias against patient well being. Having said this, any reform of medical care to take into account those with chronic (expensive) medical problems. My daughter, active duty Army, will be med-boarded soon. If she is 30% disabled, the govt. will let her use Tricare/medicare. If less, she would be left without health coverage and with the problems she has, would be uninsurable. That's a problem for her and others like her. Likewise, families with a child with chronic problems who ages out of their parent's health plan.

HChambers"My daughte... (Below threshold)
retired military:

"My daughter, active duty Army, will be med-boarded soon. If she is 30% disabled, the govt. will let her use Tricare/medicare. If less, she would be left without health coverage and with the problems she has, would be uninsurable. "

I dont know your circumstances and it has been several years since I retired. If your daughter is medically removed from active duty I am almost certain she is entitled to care at VA. I suggest she talk to VA prior to her medical board. In addition, I would suggest she seek out a counseler with the Disabled American Veterans association which does not work for the VA or the military. They may be able to assist her in preparing a claim at no additional charge.

follow this link to find out how to contact the closest chapter near her.


Hope this helps and good luck

HCChambers, Have you... (Below threshold)

Have your daughter join one of the representative groups such as DAV, and
then find a good Consumer Affairs rep at
the VA hospital she's assigned to.
If she's going to the DeBakey VA in Houston,
have her get in touch with Rufus. He's the best.

We are going off topic with... (Below threshold)

We are going off topic with HC, though the dilemma noted is demonstrative of what happens in large competing government systems.

Unfortunately the results of a Med Board are highly dependent upon the local folks running it. There is significant variation between services as well. The med board will affect whether you get retirement benefits (including medical care and pension payments). Find an advocate within the medical military system (may be hard in the Army, but a brigade or lower level provider with experience in Med Boards should be findable).

VA disability rating is independent of the med board, and it is highly important that all the records sent to the VA for disability review are complete and legible. The people like Rufus, recommended by Maggie, are very important as well in this process. If the VA finds enough disability, then you get a disability pension and VA Care for those problems even if you don't qualify for military retirement benefits. VA disability takes a LONG time to come through. Mine got streamlined and only took 14 months [!].

I've seen scenarios like th... (Below threshold)

I've seen scenarios like the above run before. Because of this, if they pass universal health care, I will have to start a class action lawsuit against those tha tpassed it for attempted murder.

The above scenarios, if layed out under health care here would have resulted in my death twice already. And one of my brothers would now be crippled for life.

The system we have now may not be the best, but it is light years ahead of Canada's system.

Why not get people from Eng... (Below threshold)

Why not get people from England and Canada to vote on whether America's health care system gets nationalized? They would vote it down, since it would take away their only escape from their own death-sentence health systems. No more sudden heart problems while on holiday in New York. Oops! What a coincidence!

Canadas ability to deliver ... (Below threshold)

Canadas ability to deliver health care is enough to make me sick.

As an ex-pat living in Cana... (Below threshold)

As an ex-pat living in Canada, my experiences run negative/mixed.
The wait time for "routine" surgery here is ridiculous. 20-24 months for disc replacement surgery while a person becomes more crippled and bent with pain every day.
The wait time for "critical" surgery is unacceptable. Traveling and waiting only to have surgery cancelled is, unfortunately, not uncommon.
Hospital bed shortages are routine. This requires beds in hallways with screens around for privacy.
Doctor and nurse shortages abound necessitating the use of emergency rooms and clinics where there is no smooth follow-up care.
The small clinic in my town has one physician. His case load was just too large, and the aging population required more and more care per person. He literally had a lottery to drop people from his care. Those "chosen" by this lottery were informed that they had lost their doctor and had to try to find another one. We are not talking about a few people here, but about 25-30% of his patients.

The health care system is truly the third rail of politics here. No one and I do mean NO ONE will touch it. People here are so brainwashed about their vaunted health care system that they truly do not seem to realize how bad it is.
Of course, it doesn't help when the American news they receive on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting System) tells them how bad the American system is.

There won't be more healthc... (Below threshold)

There won't be more healthcare available under a government program, just a different way to distribute what healthcare is available. Political considerations and outright corruption will be the driving force behind who gets what healthcare. In fact, with government interference and perhaps control of salaries, fewer qualified people will become/stay doctors. There will have to be many more primary care physicians, so specialized medicine will become more and more rare. Healthcare will necessarily have to be rationed. Old people will just have to live with their problems--or not live.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

I wonder how long the wait for abortions and botox injections will be under Obamacare.

The best solution to whatever problems we currently have might be to completely revamp the medical malpractice system. But that'll never happen.

If we go to a single payer ... (Below threshold)

If we go to a single payer system of health care, what happens to the ability to sue for medical malpractice? Someone needs to clue the trial lawyer lobby that their primary source of income is about to go away...

We're running into an inter... (Below threshold)

We're running into an interesting concept w/respect to health care - the idea of diminishing returns for the amount of money spent.

The goal is to get everyone signed up, and supposedly if even one child isn't covered then ANY expense is justifiable in order to get the kid covered. But just how much expense are we supposed to bear so that comes around?

Think of it as pouring out (and paying as you go) a gallon of tomato juice. (The pourer's name is Zeno, if it matters...) The first 85% comes fairly cheaply - figure that whoever's pouring (whether it be government or private sector) will charge a reasonable amount you won't mind paying. It's already been agreed on, and you're willing to absorb the cost to what YOU consider a reasonable point. (Say, $4 a gallon, the price at the grocery store if you buy it yourself.) So the first 85% isn't bad.

But then the next 5% - you get charged TWICE the amount you paid for the first 85%. You grumble - but pay. $12 a gallon for tomato juice? WTF? That's about what you get charged at a high-end resort, buying it in 8-oz glasses.

So you're at three times what you first thought the cost would be. It's REAL high - but you really want what they're pouring. You hope the price doesn't go any higher - this putting a dent in your wallet.

And you've still got 10% to go.

The next 5% costs double the amount you paid AGAIN. You're at $36 for that gallon of tomato juice, and you're having a real hard time justifying the price. You complain about it - but you're told that as long as there's ANY left in the bottle, you've got to buy it.

It's getting much harder to pay for something you thought would be relatively affordable.

But there's still 5% left.

At this point, a rational person would say "Enough already!" (I would likely have balked at $12 a gallon...) You spend more and more, and get less and less for it - at what point is it okay to go "Okay - that's enough!"?

One of the things that hasn't been talked about is how 'universal health care' is supposed to be much better for the country. But what will the COST be per person for an even minimal level of coverage? (And don't say it's 'free' - there's NOTHING free about a government program.)

I'm thinking that trying for 'perfection' in health care is going to be a hell of a lot more expensive than simply staying with 'good enough'... and the cost will be unaffordable.

Those complaints are a litt... (Below threshold)
gra gor:

Those complaints are a little dated - 2005 and 2006.
Since then there was an agreement between the Feds and the Provinces and the wait lines have been reduced considerably. One can get appointments, diagnostics and surgery sometimes in as little as 4 weeks if all the stars line up.

One other thing that gets lost in all this rhetoric. The lack of facilities, staff and procedures in medical care in the mid 2000's was a direct result of our Federal Government eliminating our deficit spending and reducing our National Debt in the mid 1990's and down loading expenses on provinces and then provinces on municipalities.

We reduced the national debt, eliminated the deficit and suffered through (and are still suffering through) a loss in infrastructure and services, including health care.

Now that we have been subjected to a depressed economy by foreign banks our government has decided to ramp up the deficit spending again, which will ensure another round of deficit cuts and further cuts to healthcare although I suspect this bunch of buffoons will sell the apple cart to the 3P proponents of private healthcare and we will be left to do the best we can individually.

That article contains old facts that may not be representative of the new reality although it won't change the circumstances that those people found themselves in and therefore won't change the tone or substance of their very
vocal complaints. Even if the event did happen 4 years ago.


So, the upkeep of the healt... (Below threshold)

So, the upkeep of the healthcare system wasn't a priority, and it suffered. And you predict that it will get back burnered again...
Not an argument in favor of nationalized healthcare.

I just wish those in congre... (Below threshold)

I just wish those in congress would submit themselves to a year of CanadaCare before cramming it down our throats.

I also find the lack of hyperbolist on this thread telling us how good the Canadian health care system is to be rather telling. Wasn't it just last week in another thread he was asking for any examples of problems with their health care system?

Hypergirlie! Come out, come out, where ever you are!

Kenny - "I just wish th... (Below threshold)

Kenny - "I just wish those in congress would submit themselves to a year of CanadaCare before cramming it down our throats."

Would be nice but it ain't gonna happen, there's too much money to be skimmed or had via kickbacks.

My question is why ANYONE would trust the same people to run this program when they have allowed $60 billion dollars a year in Medicare fraud?

"Hypergirlie! Come out, come out, where ever you are!"

Yeah, I wish hyper would show his (digital) face also, I have something special waiting for our resident back-bacon eater.

Marc,"Would be nic... (Below threshold)


"Would be nice but it ain't gonna happen, there's too much money to be skimmed or had via kickbacks.

My question is why ANYONE would trust the same people to run this program when they have allowed $60 billion dollars a year in Medicare fraud?"

Yep, you're right! It's amazing how un-informed some of the voters are, they just ignore any bad news or inconvenient facts and vote the straight party line.

"You can save money or you can save lives. Government cannot do both, and I am not really sure that it can even do one."

I'm pretty sure it can't do either.

Gra gor,If you think... (Below threshold)

Gra gor,
If you think the examples I cited were old, you are mistaken. The surgery after the extended 20 month wait time just finally occurred in February.
The bed shortage occurred this winter in the local hospital.
Two weeks ago a good friend had to take air ambulance to Toronto St. Michael's because there was concern if she checked out of her current hospital and had her husband drive the 3 1/2 hours to Toronto, her bed might not be there waiting for her. This waste of health care dollars is justified because there are no effective answers to the bed shortages.
I know that people are working hard to fix the system, I believe, however that this system is not fixable without major political will and very major mindset changes.

My 79 year old mother was d... (Below threshold)

My 79 year old mother was diagnosed with a rare, aggresive form of breast cancer in October 2008. She has received 8 rounds of chemo - has had a radical mastectomy, and is starting 25 radiation therapies starting next week. I cannot fault the canadian health care system in the least with her treatment.

My 81 year old father has several heart issues - bad valves, "floppy" muscle, and had a double pacemaker installed a few years ago. His health team is excellent.

My mother in law has stage IV cancer - of the breast, bones, liver. She has a nurse to her house every day to check on her.

Has there been small inconveniences? Sure there has. My mom needed a cat scan as soon as possible: we went to emerge and waited four or five hours until they could fit us in. We were triaged down in priority - but neither of us minded the wait, as others in more dire need got the service they needed.

Mom was important, of course... but the car accident victim was MORE important and a few hours made no difference to my mother's diagnosis or treatment.

We read a few chapters... no biggy.

For every Canadian health care horror story I can tell you 10 USA health care horror stories. The general quality of care in Canada is generally very good - and the people who fall through the cracks are likely less than those in the USA.

I am no socialist - but I am very glad we don't have to look at selling our family home for drug therapy and cancer treatments at this difficult time for our family.

Why do 1 in 3 doctors in Br... (Below threshold)

Why do 1 in 3 doctors in Britain and Canada send their patients to the US for treatment?

Why does Canada spend $1 billion on healthcare in the US by sending their patients to US hospitals?

I'd like to hear some of those 'US horror stories'. I don't think you have any.

Nationalized healthcare is a death sentence.

TailGunner said "Why do 1 i... (Below threshold)
gra gor:

TailGunner said "Why do 1 in 3 doctors in Britain and Canada send their patients to the US for treatment?"

One in three? I smell sensationalism. Bet you can't back that statement up with a link.

Although nowadays, if your treatment is going to take too long or if you are a high risk neonatal patient and an American bed is available when a Canadian one isn't, then, in BC at least, they will send you to the States so that you don't have to wait. Is that what you mean by 1 in 3? Things are being rebuilt and getting much better. The stories are old and out of date - for the most part.

Get new stats.

Here's one for you about th... (Below threshold)

Here's one for you about the Canadian Health Care System. I recently had an MRI done whish took me 2 weeks to get the appointment so that is not that bad actually very good. Now while reading the MRI they found a 5cm lesion in my throat. What is it? I don't know because 3 weeks ago my Dr. requested an ultra-sound and I have still do not know when I am going. All I have to say is that what ever is in my throat better not be cancerous.






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