What’s the Good in Having Health Care If You Can’t Use It

The Canadian system is held up by American liberals as an example of what the US should do regarding health care reform. If that is what you think, take a look at what these folks had to endure once they became really sick under Canada’s health care system:

In Ontario, Lindsay McCreith was suffering from headaches and seizures yet faced a four and a half month wait for an MRI scan in January of 2006. Deciding that the wait was untenable, Mr. McCreith did what a lot of Canadians do: He went south, and paid for an MRI scan across the border in Buffalo. The MRI revealed a malignant brain tumor.

Ontario’s government system still refused to provide timely treatment, offering instead a months-long wait for surgery. In the end, Mr. McCreith returned to Buffalo and paid for surgery that may have saved his life. He’s challenging Ontario’s government-run monopoly health-insurance system, claiming it violates the right to life and security of the person guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Shona Holmes, another Ontario court challenger, endured a similarly harrowing struggle. In March of 2005, Ms. Holmes began losing her vision and experienced headaches, anxiety attacks, extreme fatigue and weight gain. Despite an MRI scan showing a brain tumor, Ms. Holmes was told she would have to wait months to see a specialist. In June, her vision deteriorating rapidly, Ms. Holmes went to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where she found that immediate surgery was required to prevent permanent vision loss and potentially death. Again, the government system in Ontario required more appointments and more tests along with more wait times. Ms. Holmes returned to the Mayo Clinic and paid for her surgery.

On the other side of the country in Alberta, Bill Murray waited in pain for more than a year to see a specialist for his arthritic hip. The specialist recommended a “Birmingham” hip resurfacing surgery (a state-of-the-art procedure that gives better results than basic hip replacement) as the best medical option. But government bureaucrats determined that Mr. Murray, who was 57, was “too old” to enjoy the benefits of this procedure and said no. In the end, he was also denied the opportunity to pay for the procedure himself in Alberta. He’s heading to court claiming a violation of Charter rights as well.

Canada’s system is probably fine if you’re a healthy person and use the system only for physicals, vaccines, and preventative care. But if you become seriously ill or suffer from a chronic disease, good luck. You’ll wait a very long time for treatment or you may be flat out denied treatment by government bureaucrats. That’s really too bad for Mr. Murray. Don Surber notes:

You can be darned sure that no one told Ted Kennedy last year he was too old to enjoy his brain surgery. He was 76 at the time.

You can save money or you can save lives. Government cannot do both, and I am not really sure that it can even do one.

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