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Mar-08-2010 22:50printcomments

Canadian Health Care Horror Story

Republicans today are saying that a flood of Canadians are crossing the border for “superior” American health care.

Image from a teabagger Website.
Image from a teabagger Website.

(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, 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:

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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Jetta Lewis November 30, 2010 2:29 pm (Pacific time)

This is so typical of liberal Canadians. You present a few half truths and use them in some halfbaked manner to bash America and Americans. I have lived in both countries and will take the American Medical system any day over Canadian. If I had stayed in Canada for my heart probs I would have been dead before I was taken care of. Once I left Canada and saw a Dr. in the states I was operated on within 2 days. That would have never happened for me in Canada. From reading what you have to say, one would gather that you are too anti-American to report fairly and balanced.

I guess you can take the American medical system if you have lots of money, or access to a superior health insurance plan. Otherwise there are tens of millions of Americans who have no health care at all. Whereas, no one in Canada is without access to health care. Overall, while  there is  world-class health care available to Americans,you need buckets of money to access it.

There are problems with the Canadian health care system but it relates to the same problem as every other developed nation in the world: A graying population. Until about a decade ago the Canadian health care system (and many European ones as well) were the best in the world. But it was part of a model involving a younger population and a healthy (no pun intended) economy. What's needed now is a new model. The old American model of a decade ago, by comparison did not work for many and is even more dysfunctional today. Obama's health care plan for all its flaws, inconsistensies and shortcomings, is at least a step in the right direction, but if the Republicans (sounds like  you are one)  manage to gut it, it will just return America to the bad old days--just worse.

Anonymous March 10, 2010 2:41 pm (Pacific time)

It is obvious the untalented writer of this article...

I see you are posting under different names which gives you zero credibility. Goodbye.

dexter March 10, 2010 1:31 pm (Pacific time)

Well said Vic

Vic March 9, 2010 9:48 pm (Pacific time)

Arguing about the cost of providing health care to our citizens (something EVERY other industrialized nation on Earth has managed to do) while we dump 5-7 billion dollars per week into the weapons/war/oil/Greater Israel machine is ludicrous. It is like a housewife trying to budget and fretting over whether to buy rice or beans for dinner while the husband is out spending a thousand dollars on cocaine. If we can afford to rule the world and dump billions into weapons systems when we already outspend the rest of the world on weaponry...REAL WMDs, then we can afford to provide health care to our citizens. Period. You don't like money taken from you Kevin? What about the wars? How much do you think that takes from you, your family, your community? We can afford to kill and injure people like no other country, but we cannot take care of our own....pathetic.

Well put.

Jon March 9, 2010 6:18 pm (Pacific time)

“Canadian Premier: ‘My heart, my choice,’

I see you post under multiple names which gives you zero credibility with me. Goodbye.

Kevin Myles March 9, 2010 5:58 pm (Pacific time)

Vic actually you and I have had similar experiences from what I learned from your post. This economy has been devastating, and it was the hope of most Americans that our elected leaders were going to pivot and concentrate on jobs and the economy so we could afford a possible start to a national healthcare program.
As you know most politicians, and probably most Americans, see health care as a right. Thus, whether a person has the means to pay for medical services or not, he is nonetheless entitled to them. Let's ask ourselves a few questions about this vision.
Say a person, let's call him Harry, suffers from diabetes and he has no means to pay a laboratory for blood work, a doctor for treatment and a pharmacy for medication. Does Harry have a right to XYZ lab's and Dr. Jones' services and a prescription from a pharmacist? And, if those services are not provided without charge, should Harry be able to call for criminal sanctions against those persons for violating his rights to health care?
You say, "Myles, that would come very close to slavery if one person had the right to force someone to serve him without pay." You're right.
Suppose instead of Harry being able to force a lab, doctor and pharmacy to provide services without pay, Congress uses its taxing power to take a couple of hundred dollars out of the paycheck of some American to give to Harry so that he could pay the lab, doctor and pharmacist. Would there be any difference in principle, namely forcibly using one person to serve the purposes of another?
There would be one important strategic difference, that of concealment. Most Americans, I would hope, would be offended by the notion of directly and visibly forcing one person to serve the purposes of another. Congress' use of the tax system to invisibly accomplish the same end is more palatable to the average American.
True rights, such as those in our Constitution, or those considered to be natural or human rights, exist simultaneously among people. That means exercise of a right by one person does not diminish those held by another. In other words, my rights to speech or travel impose no obligations on another except those of noninterference.
If we apply ideas behind rights to health care to my rights to speech or travel, my free speech rights would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with an auditorium, television studio or radio station. My right to travel freely would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with airfare and hotel accommodations.
For Congress to guarantee a right to health care, or any other good or service, whether a person can afford it or not, it must diminish someone else's rights, namely their rights to their earnings. The reason is that Congress has no resources of its very own. Moreover, there is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy giving them those resources. The fact that government has no resources of its very own forces one to recognize that in order for government to give one American citizen a dollar, it must first, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American.
If one person has a right to something he did not earn, of necessity it requires that another person not have a right to something that he did earn.
To argue that people have a right that imposes obligations on another is an absurd concept. A better term for newfangled rights to health care, decent housing and food is wishes. If we called them wishes, I would be in agreement with most other Americans for I, too, wish that everyone had adequate health care, decent housing and nutritious meals.
However, if we called them human wishes, instead of human rights, there would be confusion and cognitive dissonance. The average American would cringe at the thought of government punishing one person because he refused to be pressed into making someone else's wish come true.
None of my argument is to argue against charity. Reaching into one's own pockets to assist his fellow man in need is praiseworthy and laudable. Reaching into someone else's pockets to do so is despicable and deserves condemnation.

You sound like Ayn Rand or at least Leonard Peikoff. Okay let's stay with your social darwinism. The first right is the right to life. Harry takes this seriously. But if society wilfully prevents that pursuit, then he will take whatever he needs to pursue his right to life. Your thought that it is "despicable and deserves condemnation" is irrelevant because those are only opinions and his right to life trumps your opinions. That, after all, is what social darwinism is all about.

Dexter March 9, 2010 5:38 pm (Pacific time)

Kevin Myles quote... "Americans are problem-solvers, and Canadians always follow our leads, you really do, so I expect your system to look more like ours within ten years". (Rolls eyes again). America is well behind in modernizing there health care. How can Canada, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, be all wrong?!, that’s also not including other countries that do not have to rely on medical insurance to save peoples lives!.

Your pharmaceutical companies are screwing the insurance companies, and for that reason alone are hiking their prices up to extortionate amounts. I hardly call that looking ahead, and I am very doubtful any country in their right mind will follow in those unsoundly footsteps.

I am amazed that you lot are still making excuses, as well as lying to yourselves by justifying the insurance companies recent moves with there price hikes. If that was any other place in the world right now, everyone would be boycotting those insurance companies like it was some highly contagious plague.

But as long as there are gullible people like yourself, blind sided about America being the way forward, as well as free medicine being some nasty socialist idea, then the insurance companies will keep on taking advantage of that, and YOU!. Thanks to your complacent behavior about all this... medical insurance companies will keep on pushing the boat on squeezing every ounce of your hard earned cash out of you.

More money than sense if you ask me.

I think this link should explain it all:

Vic March 9, 2010 3:35 pm (Pacific time)

The sad fact is that many Americans cannot afford health insurance and certainly cannot afford to travel to some other country to get care. Im not talking about "slackers",like our possibly-a-bit-out-of-touch-with-the-real-world friend Kevin, but hard working, honest people who because of layoffs or business failure, find themselves in a hand to mouth situation where the main concern is not health care, but keeping the rent paid and the lights on.I had a sign business in the Willamette Valley for 22 years and met a lot of great hard working people who put their all into their business and sacrificed a lot, yet in the last two years, appx one third of our customers went under. Some of these businesses had been around before mine. Slackers? I think not. Shit happens, especially these days...not too much is all that secure.

Kevin Myles March 9, 2010 1:29 pm (Pacific time)

It is true I am enjoying an excellent lifestyle that I earned because of hard work, along with maintaining a disciplined savings/investment program. I have an excellent medical/dental insurance program and it is exactly like many of the union policies in my state and across the nation. Here's the problem with that: As per the current healthcare legislation since I am not in a union or with other groups mentioned in the senate bill I will be taxed for my healthcare policy, while those others will not be taxed until 2018. Are you familiar with our equal protection law(s) in the Bill of Rights? So there will be lawsuits filed in this matter, but just the same I will have to put away projected tax money just in case it is not overturned, and will have to pay taxes on those additional savings rather than spending it and helping the local economy. Multiply my situation by the millions. Is that fair? Of course not, but there are all kinds of problems with this legislation and that's why, even if passed, it will never be put into effect in my opinion. Legislation of this size must be of a bi-partisan nature, so as divided as we are now, it will only get worse until leadership is changed. This will happen en masse this November, like it did during recent elections in several states. In regards to our citizens going overseas for healthcare, so what. Now my wife is a teacher, so I can drop my insurance and have her sign us onto her union policy which frankly I also see as unfair. My salary and other compensation package included a policy that now will become a liability for our family if I keep it. Just the same, the healthcare in the United States will just get better, while most others will go the other way regardless of how one may want it to be otherwise.

Really? So you're doing fine. What about the other forty odd million of your fellow citizens who have no health coverage at all? Or those that do but lose their homes and are forced into bankruptcy because of a catastrophic illness or accident? But I assume from your earlier post that you just think they're slackers. What you're advocating is called Social Darwinism and it has only been widely popular in two countries in the last century. One is the U.S. today and the other was Germany in the 1920s. Think about it.

Kevin Myles March 9, 2010 12:39 pm (Pacific time)

Canada healthcare may be good for you, but not for us here in the states. If there were more Americans going there for healthcare then maybe you would have a point, but just the opposite is true. Americans are problem-solvers, an Canadians always follow our leads, you really do, so I expect your system to look more like ours within ten years. Which for us will still be around 50/50 public/private, but most likely multi-tiered. People who take care of themselves should always receive the most bounty for their hard work. Sure there can be paid care for others, but not on the same level. That is life, and slackers need to pay a price for their lazy ways. Just the same this minimum care will still be the best in the world compared to other medical care.

You are obviously well covered, rich or Republican, or you couldn't be so cavalier. "Americans are problem solvers"? Look at the social and economic condition your country is in and say that with a straight face. Increasing numbers of Americans are fleeing your country for health care elsewhere. And not just Canada and Mexico. They are going to India, Thailand, Costa Rica, etc.

Russ March 9, 2010 10:21 am (Pacific time)

Canadian healthcare is a good model for us? That’s rich, coming from the left.

So, today you're Russ. Last week you were Muarry Freeman. Who are you going to be next week?

douglas benson March 9, 2010 7:04 am (Pacific time)

I just dont get it .Those of us that have health ins pay large portions of our income for ins . When I am working I make $30 hr + $15 benifit package with $8 going to ins. thats about 20% of my total wage thankfully its not taxed . I dont like the current plan but the regulation of profit above the cost of care alone has me sold . The one thing that should be included is it should be a 100% tax writeoff .If the goverment mandates coverage that is a tax plain and simple . Yes youre stocks will fall ,and mutual funds will take a hit .The loud cry is from the ones making a killing in stocks .This plan cuts all thier profit .I say good they shouldnt make a fortune on health care .Also we need more doctors nurses ect. with grants for those who wish to enter the health care field .

Dha Kur March 9, 2010 3:08 am (Pacific time)

Thanks for the article. Here are few things that are positive about medical tourism. 1. Medical Tourism provides an excellent and proven solution for those in need in developed countries or from the countries in addition to those travelling else where for lack of facilities. 2. In long run, developing countries will be building more hospitals which are world class, thus improving the health care for the local public. 3. Competition in medical sector in developed countries will benefit the consumers also. On the other side, some of the medical tourism destinations offer little or no legal protection, in many countries there is no regulatory authority to protect medical tourists.

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