Day by Day

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In response to a commenter

Got a comment on this post from a Canadian who was a bit put off by my characterization of the Canadian health care system. His comment, in it's entirety:

Wait a minute.

I am a Conservative from Canada.

While I admit, our systems is not perfect, I'll also tell you that your's is not either.

Perhaps if you knew something about us you would understand.

Please temper your 'astonishment' with these facts.

The Province of Alberta’s economy is booming. Infrastructure is having a hard time keeping up. Everything from health care to transit to daycare to power to sewage and so on is stressed.

Look at a map. Canada is VAST. And population densities vary greatly. Saying that no Canadian hospital had four neonatal beds is just plain dumb. I'm sure there were lots of Canadian hospitals that could have accommodated met the need for beds. The choice to go to Montana had more to do with proximity than anything else.

A ‘small town’ of 60000? Is that what you call a small town? To put it into perspective, the Province of Saskatchewan (the Neighbour to Alberta) has less than a million people and is comparable in size to Montana, Wyoming and Utah combined.

You don't think people die because of the deficiencies of your system? Ok. Whatever.

I look at this as an isolated incident. There were many mitigating facts that you are not aware of, or chose to ignore. You might also be unaware of the fact that the Alberta’s healthcare system will have to pony up $200,000 for the service. But the whole thing would have cost Canadian taxpayers in the order of $60,000 if they’d had the capacity. On the face of it, our system would seem to more efficient…

Now, do I believe that all health care provided should be done so by the government? Well no. I personally have no problem with privatization of some of it. My view is somewhat controversial in Canada. But when it comes to health care Canadians as a whole are not very pragmatic. But let me tell you that the ‘survival of the richest’ system you have is not the ideal. Not by a long shot.

My comment, which is posted here because it's too large for Haloscan:


No, I don't think that the American system of health care is perfect. I worked in a hospital for years when I lived in Seattle, and I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly. But to characterize it as "survival of the richest" is just flat out wrong.

Let me put it this way: If there was a Canadian hospital capable of taking care of the medical situation, then why wasn't the mother sent there?

Look, I don't want to just start taking random pot-shots at Canada. My respect for the Canadian Armed Forces and the majority of Canadians has been vocalized on this blog several times.

However, the Canadian government, and by proxy the people who voted that government into power, have made quite a mess of a few things. For example, they've gutted your military and reduced it to a weak shadow of it's former self. Why? Because the USA is here to do the heavy lifting.

I find that horrifying. (And bear with me, because this does have a point that relates to the topic at hand.) During the Invasion of Normandy, the German troops would refuse to engage with the Canadian divisions, because the Canadians killed too many Germans. So the Germans would search out American and British troops instead, and simply avoid the Canadians whenever possible.

In short, the Canadian military used to kick ass. And now, your military couldn't protect your own country if you needed to. Not due to a lack of fighting ability, but due to simply a lack of personnel.

But you don't need to be able to fight an invading force, because anyone who even thinks about invading Canada is going to get such a red, white and blue asswhipping that people two centuries from now would look on the invading country as some of the stupidest people ever born. In short, you've subsidized your military obligations to the USA.

You're not the only country to have done so. During the 1990's, when the situation in Bosnia came to a head, the French military had to rent out tourist ferries in order to get it's troops transported to where they needed to be. The only military in Europe that could stand toe to toe with America is Britain's and that would be a short lived battle because they don't have the logistical capabilities they used to have. They got rid of them. Didn't want to spend money on them when American had everything they needed!

Now, here's where that analogy ties in.

In some bit, the same could be said of your medical system. Is American health care expensive? Yes. Part of that is the fact that it's America that's paying for all these nifty new drugs and machines that keep coming out. That cost gets passed down to the consumer. Canada and the rest of the world are riding on America's coat-tails when it comes to medical innovation. New drugs aren't cheap - there is millions of dollars invested before the drug even starts to be tested. And most drugs don't pass FDA testing, which means that the millions invested in that drug are now gone with no return. All of that cost is passed down in the cost of new drugs.

New drugs, by the way, which are not available in Canada. Because your government will not honor the patent on them. Many countries refuse to do so. They also refuse to pay the price set by the drug companies, which means that while Americans may bitch about drug prices, they're at least able to buy them. There are many countries that can't or won't. There's a reason why Americans have a higher survival rate after cancer than all of Europe. It takes drugs about four to seven years from the date of release to make it up to Canada and many other parts of the world. Or, in other words, they don't get released in Canada until the patent runs out.

Another part of of the cost is the American sue-happy idiots who want to make a quick paycheck by suing doctors. That cost also gets passed down to the consumer. That's a problem that we in American need to solve.


Here's another reason health care in America is expensive: The people who pay for health care are subsidizing those who will not. Don't make the mistake of thinking that people who don't have money don't get health care - I've seen first hand millions of dollars spent on medical care for people who couldn't even pay for a candy bar. It's illegal to refuse health care to anyone in a Hospital. I've seen people who could not pay, would not pay, and had no intention of paying for health care spent months on a floor of my hospital. They were never refused health care. So what does that mean? It means that people now whine about not getting elective surgery paid for by someone else, but nobody is going to die from a lack of health care. Period. End of story.

Back to the story that started all of this - if there was another hospital within a three-hundred mile radius that could have handled the mother and her quadruplets, where was it? Why did this woman have to get sent to another country to have her babies?

The fact that this question even needs to be asked should show you how far your medical system has fallen. OK, so maybe that hospital was full. There wasn't another hospital within THREE HUNDRED MILES that could have taken them?

That's an issue.

By the way, I don't just temper my option of the Canadian health care system on my own experiences, I also listen to people from Canada. When I worked at the hospital in Seattle, I saw plenty of Canadians who were coming down to get medical treatment that they either couldn't get in Canada, or could not get it in the appropriate amount of time. I have seen people die because of a LACK of health care from the Canadian system.

So in the end, I never claimed that the American health care system was the bee's knees. But I will make this statement: It's better than most of the systems out there. Including Canada's.
Winston Churchill once said "Democracy is the worst system of government, except for every other one." The same could be said of a lot of things American. Our health care system might have it's bugs, but if my life were on the line, I'd haul my ass to America before I go anywhere else.

And a lot of other people would as well. They do it every day.

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