Canadian Socialized Medicine a Disaster?

Is Canadian socialized medicine a disaster? (See here) a New York Times article that discusses the issue.

I think I am still in favor of some kind of socialized medicine. One thing that has impressed me is that when I have discussed Canadian socialized medicine with Canadian truckdrivers on the CB, they almost universally have been in favor of it. However the NY Times article leads me to wonder just how informed these truckdrivers are about the problems within their own healthcare system. Since Canadian truckdrivers are like American truckdrivers in that they must pass a physical in order to drive, and thus they must be in reasonably good health, perhaps the reason they like their health care system is because they have not yet needed to be treated by their health care system.

As the article points out, in the Canadian system:

The median wait time between a referral by a family doctor and an
appointment with a specialist has increased to 8.3 weeks last year from 3.7
weeks in 1993, according to a recent study by The Fraser Institute, a
conservative research group. Meanwhile the median wait between an
appointment with a specialist and treatment has increased to 9.4 weeks from
5.6 weeks over the same period.

This would mean that the median time it takes to actually receive treatment for a serious problem once you have consulted with your family doctor would be 17.7 weeks!

The article also points out that:

Canada has a national doctor shortage already, with 1.4 million people in the
province of Ontario alone without the services of a family doctor.

So some people in Canada do not even have a family doctor to go see in the first place so that they can even get the ball rolling towards the 17.7 week waiting period for treatment.

Perhaps "the Canadian model" of public healthcare is not such a good idea. Their system seems to be unraveling, or as the article states:

The country's publicly financed health insurance system... is gradually
breaking down.

However we American's can not sit back and gloat as if "our system" is better. Oh yeah, I guess it is better if you are lucky enough to have decent health care coverage. But if you are amongst the unlucky millions within America that have no coverage what-so-ever I would imagine the Canadian model would still indeed be an improvement since at least after a waiting period you get some medical attention instead of facing no healthcare at all.

While I am fortunate in that I have what I would describe as fairly decent coverage due to my almost 21 years of service in the US Navy and have little to personally fear from the arising crisis that faces us, I am still concerned about the healthcare crisis that looms for my society as a whole. The ever increasing costs of Medicare and Medicaid threaten to bankrupt my nation. More and more workers are facing cuts in healthcare coverage as American businesses attempt to shed costs and become "lean and mean" in order to compete in the global market place. While Medicaid covers the most impoverished with at least some health care, the "working poor" who struggle to make ends meet at near minimum wage jobs make too much money to qualify for Medicaid while making too little to pay for private health coverage.

One thing for certain is that something is going to have to give. America can not continue to follow the path we are on. Perhaps the Canadian model is wrong, and perhaps America can come up with an "American Way" that will be an improvement. However I can not point with pride at the current "American Way". We should hang our heads in shame at how we treat our own citizens, and even then the little we already do threatens to drive us into bankruptcy.


Blogger Michael said...

The "waiting game" numbers are a little bit misleading.

For example, in Australia, there is often a significant wait between someone seeing me (as a GP) and actually getting an appointment to see the specialist I'm referring them to - depending on the specialty at least. However, if I felt that they need to be seen urgently / right away, I can simply call up the specialist and get them fitted in - usually within the day. If that is not possible, I can always have them seen by the appropriate specialty in the ED of one of the large teaching hospitals.

As long as you are eligible for Medicare (all citizens + most permanent residents + people with reciprocal government arrangements - e.g., New Zealand and Britain), this is all free (or pretty close to free).

Canada has a fairly similar system to Australia.

At present I'm working in a fairly central city practice so I actually see a reasonable number of overseas visitors. The consensus from most visitors is that the Australian (socialised) health system is very good. Indeed, most Americans are (pleasantly) surprised by what it costs to see me.

Michael Tam

4/07/2006 03:54:00 AM  

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