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Canadian Health Care Horror StoryDaniel Johnson Salem-News.com
Republicans today are saying that a flood of Canadians are crossing the border for “superior” American health care.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - America may have the best medical care in the world (e.g. Mayo Clinic) but it’s a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that health care in the U.S. is not rationed. The bad new is that it is just plain not available to the majority of Americans.
Universal health care was introduced in Canada in the 1960s and the U.S. took the superior free-enterprise route. Americans, en masse are glad they did because if they had gone the same route as Canada and other “democratic wannabes” (as one commenter to another story put it) the U.S. would have gone communist and Russia would not have collapsed in 1989 because they would have had American wealth to sustain them.
Sarah Palin has unleashed another controversy. In her March 6 Calgary speech, she admitted that when she was little and living in Skagway,
"Believe it or not—this was in the '60s—we used to hustle on over the border for health care that we would receive in Whitehorse [Yukon]. I remember my brother, he burned his ankle in some little kid accident thing, and my parents had to put him on a train and rush him over to Whitehorse and I think, isn't that kind of ironic now. Zooming over the border, getting health care from Canada."
Republicans today are assailing what they now say is the opposite, a flood of Canadians crossing the border for “superior” American health care. But it’s not true. Republicans do not let little things like facts get in the way of a good rant.
They’re calling it “Medical Tourism”, but in a report last year by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in Washington, Paul H. Keckley, executive director said:
“With health care costs increasing at six percent per year for the next decade, and medical tourism offering savings of up to 70 percent after travel expenses, we anticipate that the industry will recover from the current economic downturn and attain 35 percent annual growth in coming years”.
That’s a weasel-word way of saying that Americans who have no health care or can’t afford what is offered, can go to other countries like Canada and Mexico for medical care, where it is affordable. On the growth of foreign medical sites, the report says:
“In our previous report, we stated that constraints in the supply of foreign medical centers could prevent growth in the medical tourism industry. Recent reports show that India’s medical tourism sector is expected to grow 30 percent annually from 2009 to 2015. (It is estimated that over 180,000 patients visited India’s medical centers during just the first eight months of the 2008 fiscal year.) India is preparing for this expected growth and thus far has not encountered any supply-side constraints.”
The report notes that
“The prolonged U.S. recession has had a significant impact on patients’ ability to afford medical care and, by extension, their use of medical tourism. A 2008 study reported that 22 percent of adults reduced the number of times they visited their physician and 11 percent cut back on the number of prescription drugs they took. A later poll found that up to 36 percent of respondents reported putting off needed medical care. The number of physician visits in the U.S. has declined from 2006 to 2008 by nearly 70,000 per month.”
So much for the vaunted superior American health care system. It is superior in potential but not in practice.
Last year, the report says, 648,000 Americans went elsewhere for medical care and the estimate is for that number to increase to 1.6 million by 2012.
On the inbound side, says Keckley,
“Barring any tempering factors such as supply constraints, resistance from health plans, increased domestic competition, or governmental policies, we project that outbound medical tourism could reach upwards of 1.6 million patients by 2012, with sustainable annual growth of 35 percent. Concurrently, inbound medical tourism will see relatively slow growth to report up to 561,000 travelers by 2017.”
Canadian medical care: a personal horror story
In October 2007 I had a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or what is known as a “mini-stroke” at about 10 pm. My son called an ambulance which arrived in under three minutes. I was transported to the Foothills Hospital and diagnosed. I had an MRI first thing the following morning within eight hours of admission. I was kept in hospital for five days while a variety of tests were conducted, including a second MRI on day three.
I was given prescriptions which were covered by my company medical plan and returned for a follow up MRI a month later.
A few weeks ago I thought I might be having some recurring episodes so the Stroke Prevention Clinic at Foothills advised me to have my doctor do a follow up. I saw my doctor the next day and she ordered a range of lab tests which included a referral to a cardiologist. I saw him eleven days later and was given a full range of tests. He reported that everything about my heart was normal and I had no cause for concern.
Conclusion: Would anyone recommend that I go to the U.S. for “better” care. I don’t think so. The only thing is, if I had told my doctor that I was a writer for Salem-News.com, I’m sure everything would have gone more quickly! The cardiologist would probably have seen me the next day.
One last note: I had no out-of-pocket expenses throughout the whole experience. This is not suggesting that it was free because it wasn’t. It was paid for by the Canadian social body who believe in mutual support in times of need and emergency. We don’t have any eighteenth century “Amendments” to distract us.
You can read the Deloitte report here: deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-UnitedStates/Local%20Assets/Documents/us_chs_MedicalTourism_111209_web.pdf
Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place
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