April 23, 2005

Canadian "Universal" Health Care (tip to Club For Growth)

A great article at Tennessean.com on Canada's health provision system explains just what the real-world costs are of government monopoly in health insurance. Of course, this "universal" coverage in most provinces doesn't include dental or prescription drugs, and often doesn't include optometry.

The worst part of Canada's system is ultimately that they pay less, actually. That sounds like a benefit, and normally it is, but the problem behind putting less money into health coverage is that it's under-staffed, under-trained, under-equipped and behind schedule. The direct cost of not investing wisely and adequately in health care can mean life and death:

    A recent mayor of Toronto was forced to wait eight long hours on a stretcher, with a broken leg, before seeing an emergency room physician. And this was in a Toronto hospital! As excruciating as it sounds to us, Canadians are accustomed to it.

    Here in the United States, if you are diagnosed with coronary artery disease caused by severely blocked arteries, you can expect life-saving bypass surgery in short order, sometimes the next day. Even if you do not have health insurance, when your life is at risk, you will get health care.

    In Canada, it's ''Take a number, please.'' With several months left to go before his scheduled bypass operation, my grandfather succumbed to complications arising from his badly-blocked arteries.

    My grandfather was a baker, as was his father before him and one son after him. His confections were mouth-wateringly rich, as I am sure many Toronto tourists discovered, but he was not a rich man. He could have afforded medical insurance, however.

    Instead, the government gave it to him, and as another law of economics says: You get what you pay for. The health care he received wasn't worth much. The federal government is well aware of the general dissatisfaction that Canadians, on both sides of the stethoscope, feel toward their health-care system. That is why it is illegal to sell medical services privately.

    Criminal charges would have been the reward for any cardiothoracic surgeon who tried to save my grandfather's life by operating on him, thus bypassing two blockages — one in his aorta and the other in a vast bureaucracy.
Read the whole thing and be glad that we have a market-based system that encourages better training, better facilities and more education.

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