Wednesday, October 08, 2008

From the Mailbag: Oy, Canada!

Got an email the other day from Physicians for a National Health Program (not affiliated with Democrats for Nixon). The opening line, "Canada's publicly funded health insurance program known as medicare is one of the best health care systems in the world" did make me chortle a bit, especially since it was delivered (presumably straight-faced) by a Dr. Marcia Angell, who's currently serving as a senior lecturer at Harvard University's Medical School.
The point of the email was that "Health care is a human right," and the sender wished us to use our bully pulpit to spread that message.
Apparently, the gentleman is not a regular reader, nor particularly well-informed. So I responded thusly:
Thanks for the heads up.
However, Canada's government-run health care system is NOT "one of the best health care systems in the world;" based on actual outcomes and timeliness of care, it's WAY down the list.
In addition, I'm not sure where you get the idea that "Health care is a human right;" at whose expense?
The fact is, Canada's system is falling apart, as witnessed by the increased number of folks who must travel outside that country for *actual* care, and those who opt to buy private health insurance.
As one might imagine, I've received no reply (whether or not I've been taken off his distro list remains to be seen). But I thought it would be worth sharing with our readers why I answered as I did.
First, the Canadian health care system is, by any rational measure, a mess. They have been unable to effectively control the cost of health care, even through rationing and, well, more extreme measures. The noble-sounding idea that "health care is a right" doesn't even pass the smell test: health care must be delivered by a provider, so if it's a "right" then that person is being forced to provide that care whether or not he or she is remunerated for doing so.
Gee, almost makes one want to spend all that time in medical school, doesn't it?
If by "health care" the folks at PNHP actually mean "health insurance," then they're already behind the eight ball there, as well:
The fact is, Canadians want decent health care, it's just that their current system makes that difficult to obtain. So, the market has responded:
"Across Canada, there are 42 for-profit magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) clinics, 72 private surgical hospitals (excluding cosmetic surgery facilities) and 16 "boutique" physician clinics."
Sounds like a good start.
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