Health Care in Canada: What a Great Model

By June 28, 2007Health Care

In today’s Wall Street Journal, a view of Michael Moore’s new propaganda film from a Canadian perspective:

TORONTO–“I haven’t seen ‘Sicko,’ ” says Avril Allen about the new Michael Moore documentary, which advocates socialized medicine for the United States. The film, which has been widely viewed on the Internet, and which will officially open in the U.S. and Canada on Friday, has been getting rave reviews. But Ms. Allen, a lawyer, has no plans to watch it. She’s just too busy preparing to file suit against Ontario’s provincial government about its health-care system next month.

Her client, Lindsay McCreith, would have had to wait for four months just to get an MRI, and then months more to see a neurologist for his malignant brain tumor. Instead, frustrated and ill, the retired auto-body shop owner traveled to Buffalo, N.Y., for a lifesaving surgery. Now he’s suing for the right to opt out of Canada’s government-run health care, which he considers dangerous.

Ms. Allen figures the lawsuit has a fighting chance: In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that “access to wait lists is not access to health care,” striking down key Quebec laws that prohibited private medicine and private health insurance.

Elsewhere, the AFL-CIO aligns itself with Michael Moore and socialism. (Yes, yes. We know it’s considered bad manners and politically crude to refer to socialism in these debates. But what else do you call eliminating the private sector from health care? Universal coverage? That may describe the end, but it certainly doesn’t describe the system.)

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Tom Harris says:

    I live in Ottawa Canada and the big probelm we face is unbelievably long wait times for nearly everything. For example, I have a kidney stone that can be quite painful at times. One night I was so pained I went to emergency at the largest hospital in this the capital city of Canada. I waited from about 1 am until sometime after dawn before I was finally given a perscription and sent home about 8 am or so. Then I went to my specialist appointment in January 2007 (you have to give the year in such stories as wait times can indeed be more than a year for some things) and he said I should have one of those treatments where they send vibrations through your kidney to break up the stones and they would contact me when there was an opening to get this done. It is now end of June 2007 and they have yet to call and my GP says I should start to chase them.

    Here’s a suggestion Michael Moore should see if he can get an Ontario Health Card (OHIP) somehow and try our system out. My mother who has parkinson’s needed an MRI urgently and was told the wait time would be four months or so. As we needed the results to help with her pills regime, my Dad spent $7,000 to ahve it done across the border in Buffalo. Expensive yes, but it may have saved her life.

    Moore doesn’t know what he is talking about when he boosts “The Canadian Model”. He is also wrong to even call it a Canadian model since the service varies so much from province to province, we might as well all be in separate countries. A friend of mine just had a bypass operation in B.C. and his wait time was quite low and the service excellent so it depends entirely where you are in Canada.

    Tom Harris
    Otawa, Canada

  • Walker Robbins says:

    I have personal experience with the Canadian Health Care System, it’s terrible.

    In 1990- OK it was a while ago- I broke my leg in Canada skiing while on vacation with my family. I had to be driven about 60 km to the nearest hospital to have my leg set, then waited nearly 3 hours to be seen. Once in the room, not only did they use a plaster cast that took a week to dry (this was well after fiberglass casts were available, which dry in a matter of minutes)… They set my leg about 5 degrees off. This meant when I got back to the USA they had to re-break my leg to get it straight. I was in a cast for 10 weeks.

    I asked my doctor after the incident what he would have done for a patient in the US. He said that with a break as severe as mine was, they would have simply put a pin in it (aligning it perfectly).

    Canadian Healthcare = Sub-standard Medicine

  • Jenn says:

    First off, Michael Moore is not a journalist. He is under no obligation to provide a fair and balanced look at anything.

    And while I would not advocate making private insurance illegal a la Canada, frankly, a waiting list is better than no coverage at all.

    Instead of name calling and finger pointing let’s look at ways we can get everyone the health coverage they need.

  • Carter says:

    Why opposed to socialism?

    Hayek, in a digestible form.

  • Duke says:

    I am not at all surprised to see the example of Lindsay McCreith popping up in response to Michael Moore’s film – it’s a convenient way to ignore the bigger picture, by focusing on one example.

    While I agree that Moore does not paint a balanced picture in his film (and he never does in any of his films) he makes many salient points about the general state of health care in the 5 countries he focuses on.

    Yes, waiting times in Canada for certain surgeries and procedures can be long, and this needs to be fixed. The experience of McCreith is unnacceptable, and I can’t blame him for being angry and suing the government. But his experience is not ‘typical’ of Canadians’ experiences with our health care system. By and large the system is good, and in my experience for the last 30+ years I have never had to wait too long for anything.

    Canadians are quite proud of our system, and rightly so. Further privatization would likely only erode it, creating a two-tier system where those who can afford it get the quickest and best treatment, while everyone else get the leftovers. And make no mistake, if part of the system is privatized, it will drain the best resources into that system by paying the highest price, leaving the rest to the government system.

    And finally, why is socialism such a dirty word with some people (particularly Americans)? It’s not communism, it’s social democracy, and it works quite well in countries like Canada, Norway, Sweden etc., where the people enjoy a very high quality of life, safe cities, good schools and hospitals, and incidentally, a much longer life expectancy than Americans.

  • Jeff Gruen says:

    Carter – I really liked your post. As Chief Medical Officer at Revolution Health Group, and having spent 25 years in healthcare, I know how tempting it is to think that crossing the Healthcare Shangrala exists across some other border. There are no simple fixes in healthcare unfortunately, it will take many people doing many things differently to make a real difference. As Donna Shalala said in a speech recently, there already is one system in the United States that has universal coverage and a fully electronic record — the VA system, and I doubt anyone would say that is a perfect solution (despite many great things they do). You may wish to check out a blog series I’m doing on some recommendations I have to revolutionize medical education — it’s one place to start.

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