A Short Course in Universal Health Care…

Health care has become a hot issue in the upcoming Presidential election with both leading Democratic candidates including it as a major (perhaps THE major) platform plank.  It became a central focus at the Texas debate a few weeks ago, when each of the candidates attempted to differentiate themselves on the issue. 

As a Canadian who is married to a health care provider I look on in interest at this debate.  This issue was resolved years ago in Canada and now everyone has access to more or less free and open health care. 

The only time I am the less bit concerned about the U.S. health care system is when I am traveling there.  I get traveller’s health insurance coverage so that I don’t face what a huge portion of the U.S. population faces every day – the possibility of financial ruin in the event of a serious injury or illness.  

With this in mind I took a look at a YouTube video called “A Short Course in Brain Surgery” by free market health care advocate Stuart Browning.  In the short video Browning unveils the disturbing story of an Ontario resident who was forced to travel to Buffalo to first get an MRI and then for subsequent brain surgery to remove a tumor. 

In the video he claims that he was going to have to wait for months to get an MRI in Ontario and then more months to get a consultation with a Neurosurgeon. 

Browning’s video and some of his previous efforts paint the Canadian health care system as hopelessly inefficient and implies that patients are dying while waiting for care.  It is Browning’s belief that a for profit system is much more efficient and effective. 

And this may be true, though I have not experienced it personally.  When someone in my circle of friends and family is in need of health care they normally get it quickly and effeciently. 

However, it is also true that insurance companies and corporate health care facilities also keep their bottom lines healthy by not living up to their obligations.  Just a couple of weeks ago Health Net Inc. one of California’s largest for profit insurers was ordered to pay more than $9 million to a breast cancer patient it had dropped in the middle of chemotherapy. 

And who could forget the sight of uninsured patients being dumped in the street outside free health clinics in Los Angeles. 

I spent 15 years working in the insurance industry and I find this betrayal of trust revolting.  Unfortunately, it is all too common for the American health care industry which loves to collect premiums but hates to pay them out.

The truth here in Canada is that if you are seriously ill or injured you go to the front of the line and receive medical care that is second to none.  Our system provides health care to 30 million people and it would be a surprise to me if there were not occasional problems.  The gentleman in Browning’s video obviously felt that he could get better medical care in the United States and did what any Canadian is free to do and travel down there to take advantage of the for profit health care system.

Before Browning condemns Canada’s health care system I think he needs to take a long, hard look at the one he holds so dear.  It’s a system that is vastly inefficient in its delivery of its product; leaves shocking numbers of average Americans with little or no coverage and forces many to make life and death health care decisions sorely on the basis of affordability.

Browning, on his website, goes to great length to claim his independence from the American for profit health care industry and I take him at his word.  I do however, wonder at his motivations.  Is he just a concerned citizen standing on the parapets to defend fortress America against the dark forces of socialized medicine?  Or is there some other purpose a work here?

If Browning is at all interested in the truth I challenge him to come up here to Canada and speak to a random sampling of a thousand Canadians and ask them about the quality of our health-care system.  

And if I did the same in the United States it would be really interesting to compare results.

3 Responses to “A Short Course in Universal Health Care…”

  1. Peter McGarvey says:

    More on the out of control U.S. healthcare system.

    A study released this morning by Fidelity Investments estimates that a couple retiring this year will need about $225,000 in savings to cover medical costs in retirement.

    “With health care costs continuing to outpace wage increases and companies trimming retiree health benefits, financing health care has to be central to retirement planning,” Brad Kimler, executive vice president of Fidelity’s benefits consulting group, said in a statement accompanying the report.

    This is good news for retirees already watching their retirement savings shrink in the current bear market.

  2. S Gleason says:

    Mr Brown fails to disclose on the video that his fees are paid for by the US hospitals he refers patients to. Reference link:http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=272935e1-04fa-4bd8-ac41-8d6183d77c0b&p=1

  3. Peter McGarvey says:

    Thank you both for your kind comments on the health of the Canadian Health care system.

    We may have problems with our system, but when you consider the alternative (the average American family pays over $12,000 in health insurance premiums with no assurance that their carrier will pay their claims) many of us are dedicated to helping improve an already good system.


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