Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Health-care tale from abroad

The good news is that many Americans (such as Ezra Klein, kinda) have fallen out of love with the Canadian system as a model for health care, after they've gotten a decent look at it. Others (such as this example) haven't:

I'm not saying that Canada's approach is perfect. I am sure that it has its troubles, too, but it looks to me that they are doing a better job of caring for their citizens and that we could learn a thing or two from their approach.

However, north of the border, passions are aflame due to the decisions of an administrator of health care in the country. I remember weekends in Montreal where emergency room wait-times exceeded 24 hours. Danny Williams, premier (equivalent of governor) of Newfoundland decided in was in his interest to avoid the Canadian system:

An unapologetic Danny Williams says he was aware his trip to the United States for heart surgery earlier this month would spark outcry, but he concluded his personal health trumped any public fallout over the decision.

Later on, Williams defended his decision, because "this was my heart, my choice and my health". The premier of each province is responsible for administrating health care in his province and is presumably more familiar with his/her system than any other person. Yet Premier Williams -- like Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney years ago -- ducked out to Florida for care he didn't want to get in Canada.

Living in Canada for about six years, I can't and won't blame either one of them one bit. Wait times were atrocious, medical technology obsolete, and understanding of medicine too often questionable. Now, I am fortunate to be in the 84% of Americans who have health insurance. Before that, I was in the significant number of Americans in the remaining 16% who chose not to have it because I was in decent enough physical health.

Of course the system needs reform, for many reasons. However, whatever form that takes I hope it isn't the kind that gives some 30% of Americans better health care, and drives the other 70% to the point where they get care outside of the country if at all possible.

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