Canadian Premier comes to US for heart surgery

The Premier for Newfoundland, one of Canada’s eastern provinces, underwent heart surgery last week.  Where do you suppose Premier Danny Williams went for his surgery?  To a hospital in St. John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland?  Nope.  Perhaps he travelled to a larger Canadian metropolis, such as Toronto or Montreal?  Guess again.  Actually, the premier chose to have his cardiac repair performed not anywhere in his own country.  Like so many of his fellow Canadians, Premier Williams eschewed his country’s government-insured health care system, and instead came south to the United States to undergo life-saving and time-sensitive surgery.

While neither the premier’s office nor other official outlets in Canada would disclose the location of the hospital where Williams received his treatment, sources indicated it may have been in Florida.  Regardless of where in the US the surgery was performed, the fact that a high-ranking Canadian government leader would forego receiving medical treatment in his own country and travel instead to the United States to be treated in a health care system that is not yet controlled by the government, has created somewhat of a PR embarrassment for advocates of Canada’s government-controlled system.  It really shouldn’t be an embarrassment; and it certainly shouldn’t surprise anyone.

This episode simply reflects the reality that procedures such as those which the Canadian provincial leader underwent — which are not always available elsewhere – are always readily available  in the United States.  This incident also is a reflection of the high esteem in which American medicine (especially cardiac medicine) is held throughout the world.

69 comments Add your comment

the truth

February 10th, 2010
6:22 am

Bob,

this goes against everything that michael moore and the UN say about our healthcare system, so despite the plain truth, it must be wrong.

btw, this sort of thing has been going on for decades. a close friend of mine from the US was living in england. he contracted a severe form of cancer. it was not discovered until too late because despite feeling ill, he could not get in to see a specialist. once he finally got in, the doctor leveled with him and said that he needed to return to the US to have the best chance of living. unfortunately, he did not live long past that and died over there.

micheal moore and the UN and Obama and the democrats, get a clue.

Amanda Walton

February 10th, 2010
6:43 am

As a Canadian I don’t see anything in this article that has any quotes from his office of why he went to the States for surgery. I know more Americans personally who have horror stories about their care in the U.S. then I ever hear from Canadians. The fact the Premier went to the States has nothing to do with your system is better and our’s sucks since the biggest complaint on our system is the wait times for tests depending on where in the country you live. Did he fly to a scheduled surgery or was the Premeir already in Florida and need emergency treatment~

It might be time for you to get more informative sources and share them with the rest of us, maybe then your point might be taken seriously

Joel Edge

February 10th, 2010
7:09 am

Amanda Wilson
From my reading, it was scheduled.

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2510700

http://www.nationalpost.com/related/links/story.html?id=2515715

Didn’t want to take a chance on waiting, I guess.

Tom Greene

February 10th, 2010
7:10 am

@Amanda: Don’t be lazy. Just go to news.google.ca. A simple search will product what you’re looking for.
Here is one article for example: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/premier+heart+surgery+sparks+debate/2516321/story.html

Disagreeing with something doesn’t make it false. I hope the Vancouver Sun can make Bob’s point more serious to you.

Joel Edge

February 10th, 2010
7:14 am

My bad. Should have been Watson. Old age disease.

Chuck

February 10th, 2010
7:14 am

Ms.Walton, Maybe your friends didn’t complain because they were DEAD. You will probably hear two or three stories as to why the Premier had surgery in the US. And probalby all of them will be coverups. Regardless, if health care is so great in Canade why didn’t he insist on having it done there. Government run health care does not work. Overhaulging heatlh care in the US will not bring down costs or improve care. If the Dems want to cover the uninsured, then lower the limits on Medicaid by removing the regulations that limit enrollment. And while you are at it, provide adequate funding so the under $250,000.00 tax payers don’t have to foot the bill.

Joel Edge

February 10th, 2010
7:17 am

Dang, I can’t get this right. Should have been Walton. I need to go to Canada for treatment.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 10th, 2010
7:21 am

I think we are all missing the main point of our host’s essay. In the (increasingly unlikely) event that ObamaCare becomes the law of the land, marvelous new business opportunities will arise for health care professionals in the beautiful islands of the Caribbean. Combination hospital and spa, much like the now-disappeared sanitariums of the early 20th century. Better working condition for the professional, better care for the patient. Pity those who will be stuck with the equivalent of VA here in the states.

A dad

February 10th, 2010
7:26 am

Tom Greene – well done sir. Nothing like refering someone to an article which states the facts in issue. Amanda, I’ve noticed you haven’t posted anything after reading the article Tom pointed out. I haven’t read it myself, and don’t really care to at this point in time. But, if that article in the Vancouver paper says exactly what Barr was talking about, then common decency would indicate a retraction, perhaps an acknowldgement his facts were accurate. Admitting one is wrong is an indicatio of a mature, rational, intelligent human being.

kayaker 71

February 10th, 2010
7:32 am

It is odd that the individuals responsible for writing legislation for our health care needs will not participate in their own plan but will continue to have cadillac health care plans with little to no deductible for the rest of their lives. Wonder how many Canadians will go south for thier valve surgery after Bozo and his gang of thieves screw up the best health care on the planet?

Skip

February 10th, 2010
7:39 am

So we have the best care money can buy, we already know that. Seems Bob is making the case for national health care.

stw

February 10th, 2010
7:52 am

Skip: No sense confusing you with the facts..your mind is made up. In 2000 I had heart attack in Toronto and after ER was immediately taken in for stent. When I got to a room my roommate told me he had been in for just over 3 weeks waiting for bypass but had been told procedure could not be preformed until OR room opened up. Next day he died from another attack and when I asked a nurse how I went ahead of him she told me,” You have US insurance and that trumps Canadian health care”. Their Nationalized health care is FREE but it also is DEADLY….

MrLiberty

February 10th, 2010
8:11 am

This incident should certainly show that government controlled medical care is a failure, but it certainly doesn’t let the US medical system off the hook for all its failings. Nor should anyone in the federal government use this as an excuse to ignore all of the harm that current and past government policies have done to the system. There are still plenty of things government could do to improve quality, expand access, and lower costs.

First, end the tax benefit enjoyed by businesses for employer paid insurance. This is a subsidy to business, and further a subsidy for the insurance industry. There should be no more tax incentive to giving insurance coverage than the cash to pay for one’s own insurance. Its high time we separate our health insurance from our jobs. Portability would never have been an issue if government policies hadn’t forced the situation.

Second, the Interstate Commerce Clause should be used for what it was intended for a change. To REGULATE – meaning to make regular – interstate sales of insurance. If you choose to purchase a pre-paid medical plan (really all that so-called medical insurance is), you should be able to buy from any company in the country or even abroad. We either have freedom or tyrrany.

Third, all states need to create freedom for insurance companies and consumers. No more mandates on coverage. Currently GA citizens must purchase 42 different mandates worth of coverage for things they may or may not want. This drives up prices and causes the most harm to lower wage earners who have no choice but to purchase full-coverage polices.

Fourth, the FDA must be closed down. They are nothing but an anti-competitive force working for the pharmaceutical industry and the medical device community. Every day we see ads for lawyers talking about the harmful effects patients see from FDA approved drugs and treatments. There is no doubt that a competitive market in drug and device safety such as we see with UL, TUV, CSA, etc. in the electrical safety field would do a far superior job.

Fifth, there needs to be an end to state run professional licensure requirements. In every state, bureaucrats and those receiving political protection of their industry actively work to restrict access to industries both to keep prices high and to reduce competition. It goes on in every industry but the medical industry is particularly insidious and harmful. Under the classic guise of fearmongering, fully capable and trained individuals are kept from delivering care because of arbitrary government regulations. For instance, why should a midwife not be allowed to deliver a baby? That is what they are trained for. Why cannot pharmacists dispense medicines without prescriptions? They typically know far more about the safety and use of the drugs than the doctors. Again a private system of certification, rather than the good old boys protection society of the AMA would be far superior.

These are just a few changes that are immediately available for government to change. The rest the free market would take care of if it were allowed to.

django

February 10th, 2010
8:27 am

I have personally used both systems. I have lived in Canada since 1978 to 1998, I now live in the US. While I lived in Canada I paid $90 p/yr for coverage for a family of 5..my children went to any doctor they wanted, and received all their shots and such without fees for years. I’d like to see the US costs get anywhere near that.
Further, the reason the Premier decided to come here was not clearly defined in either article.
As a matter of balance, I wonder how many Americans go to Canada for services on a yearly basis? The entire city of Buffalo (and Upstate New York for that matter) gets their meds and services from Ontario this has been common knowledge for years.
Finally, for my own experience, I am a dialysis patient, and have been away from Toronto for well over 12 years when I got sick on a visit. At that point I hadnt used my OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance plan) for at least 18 years, so there I went to Emergency at a small hospital in Mississauga. I saw the receptionist, while standing there within 10 minutes they had my records and information up to the last day I was in the Canadian system( mind you that was 18 years earlier but they found all my info), within 5 mins Admission I saw an ER doctor and within 10 mins of that I was on a dialysis machine…the whole time from Admission to treatment 25 minutes tops.
By comparison, when I do go to a hospital in the Atlanta area I prefer Emory/Emory Crawford Long. Now if I go to Emergency there, it is typically 2-3 hrs before i see a Doctor, and anywhere from 5 – 7hrs before I actually get treated..the differences in quality of care and timeliness are significant…Oh by the way, coverage here for myself? $150p/mth…and they deny procedures all the time…

For the people that debate h/care maybe you should have some exposure to the Canadian system before you judge, you cant talk about what you dont know, one Premier does not a world make…

Scout

February 10th, 2010
8:31 am

There is a good old country expression for all of this ……………..

“We are eat up with the dumbs” if we allow Obama/Congress to pull this off.

Do you really think any of them will ever stand in a line or be denied the best immediate care?

You get what you pay for. Wake up America !

P-words

February 10th, 2010
8:49 am

Why doesn’t Sarah Palin just go ‘head and get the damn tatoo?

The reason why Palin is often caught struggling to find words is that she writes on her hands with disappearing ink.

I think I can translate what Barr is trying to express on this day: He’s suggesting that all of America should get the same healthcare available to all of congress. The parallel is that the leader of Canada can choose premium care in the US that American princesses next door can’t. The elite of any foreign country have access to Rx to the max, Mack….

…and poor Jane Doe douches with pale vinegar while Sarah Palin goes full Jack and Jill by rinsing the taxpayer with the pails of the Perrier water that’s she’s prescribed purchase-free.

It’s preposterous.

Trusslady

February 10th, 2010
9:18 am

And yet, Mr. Barr, you neglect to mention the fact that over 85,000 Americans go abroad every year for health care services, rather than enjoy “the greatest health care in the world”. That is bigger news in my book. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/21/health/21patient.html

lovelyliz

February 10th, 2010
9:18 am

A forecast by Deloitte Consulting published in August 2008 projected that medical tourism originating in the US could jump by a factor of ten over the next decade. An estimated 750,000 Americans went abroad for health care in 2007, and the report estimated that a million and a half would seek health care outside the US in 2008.

lovelyliz

February 10th, 2010
9:26 am

Increasingly, however, U.S. citizens are journeying to Asia for elective procedures, citing comparable care at lower cost, and with much less waiting time. Estimates of annual global medical tourism range broadly, from $20 billion to $60 billion. In Asia, the figure is put at $500 million to $1.3 billion. Deloitte Consulting believes the global medical-tourism market is growing by 30% a year and will hit $100 billion in 2010.

lovelyliz

February 10th, 2010
9:27 am

2008 report from Deloitte estimating the number to grow to six million by 2010,10 million by 2012 and 15.75 million in 2017

Keep up the good fight!

February 10th, 2010
9:40 am

Great Bob. You are so right! That is why potentially live saving drugs have been denied by an insurance company to a 5 yr old….because we have the best system in the world? Except you are disingenuous. Healthcare reform is about how we pay for services and healthcare and NOT about the quality of the system. The US has some great medical teams but then again so do a number of other countries. How many people will die today because you and the others with the same inane nonfactual arguments ignore those who are not receiving care or the profits of the insurance companies that deny care. How many children die Bob while you make claims that are beyond ignorant, they are just stupid.

Davo

February 10th, 2010
9:49 am

Just another example of how free market principles trump state ideology…everytime.

retiredds

February 10th, 2010
10:16 am

As I have read the great debate over health care in these and other blogs and elsewhere I have come to the conclusion we should just leave it (health care) as it is. After all is said and done, if it is broken, why fix it. Just leave it to the grandkids to deal with.

Don Nixdorf

February 10th, 2010
10:44 am

SiCKO was in fact more about Canada than viewers realize. Attending openings in Vancouver when first shown the audience was never more silent and applauded when realizing similar events in Canada. Health or Medicare Reform is incorrectly highlighted as funding and paying more. In each of Canada’s provinces the government is struggling with annual costs which are close to 50% of the annual budget. An easy web search for provincial health costs will demonstrate. Imagine your State or Federal government budget with 50% alone for health fees. The subprime will be a small broken piggy bank by comparison.

If the only understanding and solution for Health Reform is more money the results will be the same as yesterday, the same as more federal funds for banks and auto industry. More money HAS been spent in every previous year.

‘Squandering Billions Health Care in Canada’ of which I am coauthor was written to help identify for both Canada and US readers the opportunities for improved outcomes, lower adverse events, and cost savings, not only more insurance. http://www.squanderingbillions.net will give an overview of issues.

A telling point is the media and public’s awareness of the loss of lives in the USA and Canada from the current war. The media and public are less aware that EACH year 100,000 American lives die to preventable medical mistakes as can be read from the Commonwealth Fund and 25,000 Canadians die Each year from preventable medical mistakes as can be read at CIHI online. While each year many individual medical heroic events do occur, these should not be the sole focus as the opportuntiy for real Health Reform will be missed. Health/Medicare Reform is for the public/patient, not the provider/insurer.

Hard Right Hook

February 10th, 2010
11:52 am

kayaker 71

February 10th, 2010
7:32 am

‘It is odd that the individuals responsible for writing legislation for our health care needs will not participate in their own plan but will continue to have cadillac health care plans with little to no deductible for the rest of their lives. Wonder how many Canadians will go south for thier valve surgery after Bozo and his gang of thieves screw up the best health care on the planet?”

This is a critical point; when Sir Teddy the Magnificent (Ted Kennedy) was diagnosed, he elected to have his surgery where? Not Toronto, not Berlin, not Toykyo, but Duke University in North Carolina.

I wonder why?

myles higgins

February 10th, 2010
12:16 pm

Actually your conclusions are incorrect. You state in your commentary: “…procedures…which are not always available elsewhere –are always readily available in the United States.”

This is false.

They may be performed in the U.S. but they are far from readily available. Just ask the thousands of Americans who slip across the border into Canada every year to access health care they cannot afford to get in the U.S. system.

Odd how when one person goes to the U.S. for a procedure it becomes a catalyst for all the anti-healthcare reform folks but they always skillfully forget to mention the thousands who cannot get the life saving care they need in the Bad Old U.S. of A

Rational Person

February 10th, 2010
12:26 pm

Tom Green, I went so far as to follow your link and read the article. In part, it says:

“The vast majority of heart procedures are available all across Canada, in most centres,” says Dr. Christopher Feindel, a cardiac surgeon at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the University Health Network in Toronto. That would include the “whole gamut” of heart surgery, from coronary bypass, to all forms of valve procedures, heart transplants and operations to restore abnormal muscle inside the heart.

While some of the more specialized procedures are concentrated in larger centres, “for the most part as far as I can tell everything is available in Canada,” Feindel said.

The one significant exception would be surgery to the thoracic aorta, the giant blood vessel that carries blood that’s pumped out of the heart to other organs. If a person develops a swelling or aneurysm, an abnormal bulging, in the thoracic aorta, and needs surgery to open the chest cavity, “that’s a very extensive operation,” Feindel said.

The Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, “has tremendous expertise in this. They’re doing almost one or two of these cases a day, whereas in Ontario we might get two or three cases a year,” Feindel said.

It’s the only procedure Feindel has come across “that we would specifically refer to the states.”

That doesn’t sound as if Canadian medical care is inferior.

MrLiberty

February 10th, 2010
12:51 pm

If people are leaving this country for others where the costs are cheaper it just goes back to my original post. We cannot sit on our laurels become some socialist comes here for care. Our medical system is broken. We give tons of money to third party payers on the belief that routine maintenance of our bodies can be insured against. Insurance is for the unexpected. It should be for catastrophies, not for runny noses. If we all paid cash or worked out payment plans for medical services the prices would plummet. Just think of how much money is wasted just in dealing with the insurance companies and at the insurance companies themselves. There are currently doctors all over this country that do no accept insurance. They set patients up on a pre-paid subscription service for care and routine visits. They spend real time with their patients and charge less than a moderate dinner would cost for the service. Alternative care that doesn’t involve expensive machines but rather healthy foods and supplements costs way less than that, but well-trained professionals are forbidden all over this country from being allowed to tell the truth about the effectiveness of their alternatives. This is wrong.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle are owned by the insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries. Even Texas governor Rick Perry has been paid handsomely to promote mandatory vaccinations with Guadacil despite the dozens that have been killed and hundreds irreparably harmed by this useless vaccination.

Freedom has always been the right solution. The sooner we start demanding it of the people who currently “represent” us and the ones who wish to, the sooner we can restore sanity to this country, not just our health care delivery system.

Hillbilly Deluxe

February 10th, 2010
1:17 pm

Like so many of his fellow Canadians,

According to a previous column of yours, Mr. Barr (I don’t recall the date), 19,000 Canadians came to the US for treatment in a year (if memory serves it was 2006). Given that there are 33 million Canadians, give or take, that’s about .05757%. That’s hardly “so many”.

And by the way, I had a relative who went to Spain for surgery because even with travel expenses, it was much cheaper than here.

bob

February 10th, 2010
2:03 pm

Reform is fine, gov taking over is not. Look at the new AJC headline about GA gov schools cheating on tests, do we want that mentality running healthcare ? The Canadian doc said this procedure just happens to be the only one referred to the US. And anyone that says that the only thing that sucks is waiting for tests, Amanda, isn’t a quick diagnosis more likely to head off a major surgery or death ? why don’t you libs form your own healthcare plan and you can cover whatever you want, just leave me out of it and pay for it yourselves. It’s called choice.

bob

February 10th, 2010
2:06 pm

miles higgins, if it truly is the bad old USA, why do they keep coming back ? If Canada serves them so well why not stay away from the bad old USA ?

sam

February 10th, 2010
4:05 pm

all this says is that his preferred heart surgeon is in the US….i know many people that have went to Canada for surgical procudures that cost 1/5 there…it works both ways. this article reminds me of the people who “its 25 degrees outside, so there cant be global warming”…

mit

February 10th, 2010
5:09 pm

By Mr. Barr’s logic Mexico’s health care system must be kick a$$. What kind of system do they have?

Mr. Conservative

February 10th, 2010
6:08 pm

Good for the people who want to go overseas for health care. It’s more money in my pocket. And good to the insurance companies for denying payment for care and raising premiums. It’s more money in my pocket because I don’t have to pay as much in taxes. And if people can’t afford medical care and don’t get it, why, they’ll die off sooner and not be a burden on the rest of us. That’s more money in my pocket. That’s what this whole debate is all about: what’s in my pocket.

Curious Observer

February 10th, 2010
6:13 pm

So one wealthy, prominent person comes from Canada to Florida to have heart surgery. And I’m to conclude from this that the United States has the best, most affordable healthcare in the world? Or could it be that Miami is a lot warmer this time of year than Ottawa, and if money is no object, you might as well have your surgery in Miami?

What about this stuff about the United States ranking 37th in the world in quality of healthcare and longevity? Is that all liberal propaganda?

links for 2010-02-10 « A Fine House

February 10th, 2010
7:01 pm

[...] Canadian Premier comes to US for heart surgery | The Barr Code "This epsiode simply reflects the reality that procedures such as those which the Canadian provincial leader underwent — which are not always available elsewhere – are always readily avaliable in the United States." —- The universal health care crowd would respond: "Yes, they are available….but only to the RICH!" To me, it always comes back to freedom of association. If you have money, and you can afford to pay for a procedure, then you should be allowed to. (tags: Canada Universal health_care Danny_Williams sugery) [...]

Rational Person

February 10th, 2010
7:35 pm

I see that somebody on this thread wants to shut down the FDA.

Are you too young to remember the Thalidomide horror? That tragedy was a lot worse in Europe than in the US, thanks to an FDA doctor named Francis Kelsey.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 10th, 2010
8:36 pm

I am one who wants to shut down the FDA, and I remember the thalidomide “horror” and I know it is on the market today as a cure for prostate enlargement and as an experimental cure for cancer. The FDA kills more people every year – by introducing delay, or outright blocking promising drugs and procedures – that all of Al Qaeda combined.

The bureaucrat bias is, “if the drug is good for 99.9% of the population and saves 100,000 each year, but kills a couple of kids, I will lose my job. But if I refuse to approve because of the risk to children, I will get a merit bonus.” Let the market work, and keep the overlords out of our lives.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 10th, 2010
8:48 pm

Dear Curious @ 6:13, “What about this stuff about the United States ranking 37th in the world in quality of healthcare and longevity? Is that all liberal propaganda?” Yes. http://www.anncoulter.com/cgi-local/article.cgi?article=333

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 10th, 2010
8:50 pm

Bill Mackinnon

February 11th, 2010
7:50 am

“We have the best Health care system in the world.” “The health care system in this country is broken.” Two thought that are bandied about liberally. We very likely do have the best health care training system producing the best doctors, procedures and medical improvements (medecines, devices, etc) in the world. At the highest level our medical providers are the best and as a whole they are the best. Competition works because individual humans want to be the best and that translates to all the human organizations (e.g. medical schools) that participate.
It is all the rest of the health care system that is broken. What good does it do to have the best doctors, nurses and pharmaceuticals if a patient can’t have access or is denied access by insurance companies trying to make a buck. Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield is raising their rates in California 39% in one year because the recession has caused people to drop insurance they can’t afford. The pool of insured is thus shrinking and Anthem has to spread its costs over a smaller group of people. Anthem has been in the vanguard of insurance companies fighting health care reform that could make millions of people a part of the insured-spreading the costs over a much larger pool of people. And how much profit did Anthem’s parent company, Well Point make last year? Look it up.
The reform that is needed does not focus on the doctors and other medical providers, it focuses on the payment and accessibility of health care to all of us.

joan

February 11th, 2010
9:01 am

If you get what you pay for, then maybe more people ought to go to school, work hard, get and keep their jobs and pay for their insurance, rather than depending on someone else to pay for it for them.

Hard Right Hook

February 11th, 2010
9:55 am

‘What about this stuff about the United States ranking 37th in the world in quality of healthcare and longevity? Is that all liberal propaganda?”

Straight from the Daily KOS, Huffington Post or some other “enlightened” source of 3rd rate information.

DirtyDawg

February 11th, 2010
10:11 am

Nobody said that we didn’t offer top-quality care – particularly if you can afford it. If you think this answers all the questions about the screwed-up mess that our health-care ’system’ is in, then I hope yo never lose your job or your company doesn’t decide to go with a company that will charge you an arm and a leg for coverage. Suspect you’ll be singing a different tune.

By the way, those that may not be the position to do ‘what joan says’, won’t just sit around and wait for your ‘final solution’, e.g., internment camps and ovens, to the problem of those ‘free-loaders’…they’ll take matters into their own hands and ‘earn it the hard way’ – knock you over the head for it – after all, that’s showing a kind of initiative. You can than Al Capp for that bit of reasoning.

mit

February 11th, 2010
10:13 am

ragnar, you post links to ann coulter’s website as proof? you are satirically retarded. do i have to put that in every time, now that your lover is all in a tizzy?

mpercy

February 11th, 2010
10:39 am

@Keep up the good fight!

“That is why potentially live saving drugs have been denied by an insurance company to a 5 yr old….because we have the best system in the world?”

Explain this. An insurance company denied “potentially life saving drugs” to a child. Really? Or did they decline to pay for them? Because I’m pretty sure that those drugs are for sale and the parents, or a church or other charity could have bought the drugs for the child if they wanted to. Almost every ad on TV for drugs says “If you can’t afford your prescription [drugco] can help.” They give away drugs all the time–it’s great PR.

So let’s assume the evil insurance company declined to pay. We have to ask why? Were they just being mean and *wanted* to kill this kid? Or was there a contract between the parents and the insurance company that defined which drugs are covered (the formulary) and this drug wasn’t on it? Was the drug a new experimental drug not approved for use in children (you don’t want to break FDA’s rules now, do you?)? Had the medical costs for the child reached the maximum limit for the policy? What’s the level of confidence for “potentially” life-saving? 50% or 0.000001%?

I understand there’s an emotional component here, but without sufficient context I can’t decide if the insurance company is evil and are twisting things to screw over the family or the parents are just heart-broken parents who want to blame *someone* even thought the policy might clearly not cover the drugs in question (my homeowners policy clearly does not cover floods, but if my house washed away in a flood, I might be mad at the insurance company for not paying, but I’d be wrong).

CLS

February 11th, 2010
11:13 am

Django,
You only pay $90 year for a family of 5? You should be ashamed. The government is stealing from a hard worker to give you this “free” healthcare. You are a loser and a thief!

Rational Person

February 11th, 2010
11:16 am

Ragnar Danneskjöld
February 10th, 2010
8:48 pm

Dear Curious @ 6:13, “What about this stuff about the United States ranking 37th in the world in quality of healthcare and longevity? Is that all liberal propaganda?” Yes. http://www.anncoulter.com/cgi-local/article.cgi?article=333

LinkReport this comment
Ragnar Danneskjöld
February 10th, 2010
8:50 pm

And also, Curious, http://www.anncoulter.com/cgi-local/article.cgi?article=332

————————

Ragnar, if you’re citing Ann Coulter, you’re out of intellectual ammunition.

Keep up the good fight!

February 11th, 2010
11:19 am

mpercy…you are right, I did make a misstatement. The insurance company did not deny the drugs, they just have refused to pay for them. Fortunately, because of the kindness and humanitarism of others who donated money to a family who is bankrupt because of medical bills. But let’s get to the heart of it…you prefer that the insurance industry with their massive profits and high overhead (versus 1% for medicare) have their death panels determine who lives or dies, that families go bankrupt. As for the claim that the FDA has not approved the drug, as reported, the only reason that the FDA has not approved is that the form of cancer that the child has is so rare that there are not enough children dying/suffering of the cancer to have any long term studies. Oh and the treatment costs over $100,000 (not a $4/month pill). So you really believe that there should be no public option for healthcare and that the private insurance companies should be able to limit maximum policy limits and who lives or dies? I’d rather trust the same system that runs other government programs than private companies….for profit companies have every incentive to take our money and let us die.

Your analogy about flood insurance is off. You can by flood insurance..in fact the government offers a federal program for you to do that. If you chose not to, then that is your choice…but even then, with your failure, the government would still provide you a variety of government run assistance programs. So where does this family turn to get the health care coverage when the private insurer wont provide or denies….where is the healthcare version of flood insurance offered by the government for this child or does only your house matter?

As reported in the Philadelphia Daily News. http://tinyurl.com/yzdkq83
AssociatedContent report: http://tinyurl.com/ye2bb2g

Jefferson

February 11th, 2010
12:57 pm

That the way it works in the US, the rich and powerful get the best health care.

somewhereinga

February 11th, 2010
1:52 pm

ragnar: You are quoting Ann Coulter as an unbiased source? (as I spit coffee up thru my nose)

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 11th, 2010
2:41 pm

Dear Mit @ 10:13 & Some Of course, to address those arguments, one would have to read them with comprehension. Historically leftists do not endeavor to understand ideas, but merely rely on the identity of the speaker, a great cultist tradition of the left.

If you know anybody capable of reading and comprehending, and they wish to challenge any particular point or position raised by Ms. Coulter, I would be pleased to guide your friend out of her intellectual maze. (I know you don’t know any male leftists able to read with comprehension, thus the choice of pronoun.)

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 11th, 2010
2:44 pm

Dear Somewhere @ 1:52, through the magic of cut and paste I inadvertently removed you from my post at 2:41. Even a biased writer is obliged to deal with facts, as Ms. Coulter does so effectively. She destroys your position with logic.

P-words

February 11th, 2010
2:58 pm

Ann Coulter would say, heartlessly, that The Canadian Premier is a bleeding heart liberal. Her only quality is beauty. I’d join her T(&A) party anyday.

T. Rand Collins PhD MD

February 11th, 2010
10:50 pm

Thank you for a balanced, non-confrontational article, Bob.

The most unfortunate aspect of the health care debate in both countries is that the real issues, and the real strengths and weaknesses of each philosophy, get lost in the flag-waving.

There is a great deal of sniping back and forth across the border from those who would use both systems’ problems for their own political ends. Sadly, both systems are broken, but in different ways. The United States has excellent health care and world-class technology that is available quickly, but a significant part of the population cannot afford it. And another large segment of the population can just barely afford it, surrendering the equivalent of their mortgage each month just to be protected against a medical catastrophe. Canadians are privileged to receive complete care for a nominal cost – but to the patient who waits months with a painful and debilitating condition, this can be cold comfort.

In many cases involving cancer patients or acutely ill patients needing emergent care, the Canadian system performs well. My father had bypass surgery, and though there were no bedside phones and the surgery ward had last been repainted about ten years ago, he received excellent care, with home care provided for a nominal fee. That is the beauty, equality, and power of the Canadian system. However, for an extremely large number of patients with “non-emergent” conditions, wait times are long, services are limited, and patients experience significant pain and disability while they wait for treatment. “Non-emergent” does not mean that the condition can safely wait months for resolution.

The problem with the Canadian system is that it is totally government run, with no alternative available, and no competition to goad officialdom to improve services. Consequently, Canadians are stuck with what government provides – sometimes very good, and sometimes deadly slow.

The problem with the American system (and here I beat a personal drum) is that it depends entirely on the free market, and provision of good health care, I believe, does not fare well in an atmosphere oriented to profit. Sick people are not profitable, and in the end, they get the short end of the stick from an insurance industry that basically wants them to disappear. One of the elements of my belief system that I absorbed with my (Canadian) mother’s milk is that health care, like the ability to vote and express myself freely, is a right, not a privilege. Having lived for a quarter century in the U.S., I am still not convinced that many Americans have grasped this concept. I’m not sure that those who campaign fervently for the right to carry a Smith and Wesson really believe that their fellow citizens should be able to take their children to the emergency room without worrying about whether they can pay for it. Personally, I think that it is my responsibility to fork over a bit more in taxes to make sure that the immigrant kids down the road can get their eyes examined. i find it interesting that the health care systems in the U.S. that really provide equitable care (Medicare and the Veterans’ Administration) are both government run.

What is the answer? It’s complicated. Canadians need more flexibility and the ability to step out of the queue and buy care if they want to. Americans need to be freed from the crushing burden of paying for care that only the rich or the employed can afford.

Personally, as a physician executive, I have elected to have a foot in both camps, entering the medical travel industry with International Health Care Providers, a good Canadian company that connects Canadian patients facing waitlists with top-notch care in the United States. I do this because I want to see Canadians get the health care they need in a timely fashion. Those who cling rigidly to the Canadian model may brand me a deserter, but there is good health care available quickly in America, and there are a large number of Canadians (41,000 last year, according to the Fraser Institute) who are willing to go looking for it. I don’t like to see people waiting months to get a painful hip replaced. At the same time, I am grateful for the services that we can get in Canada, and hope that the US can extend both democracy AND good health care to all its citizens.

jason

February 11th, 2010
11:48 pm

if you have insurance the system will pretty much work for you (sometimes if death panels, i mean insurance companies, don’t decide that your life saving treatment is experimental) but if you are like me without health insurance you have 1 option. ER. and that is something i cant afford and a bill i wont pay. that taxes everybody. i am in my 20s and the prime of my life health wise. the system needs me to buy into it, but with health insurance from my work totaling $200 a month i simply cannot pay that. the system will get worse without 30 million people paying into it. a mandate is needed for all citizens to buy health insurance, without one i currently will not partake.

as to the situation in Canada. those who can afford it can skip the line NO MATTER WHAT COUNTRY THEY ARE FROM OR IN. MONEY TALKS as the saying goes.
the majority of Canadians (poor and middle class) cannot afford instant care and thus have a collective govt health care to keep costs down. provided it is not emergency care they wait for care. Americans have a tiered system of insurance based on who can PAY. high priced insurance plans in America allow the rich to get great care, private doctors that make house calls that the majority of Americans will never afford… the system is great in both countries IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT…

[...] a possibly related story, the Premier of Newfoundland, a province of Eastern Canada, has opted for surgery in the United [...]

[...] US for heart surgery: Celebrity Treatment Abroad series #3 By letitiajanehughes According to this blog, a prominent Canadian politician, The Premier for Newfoundland, Danny Williams, underwent heart [...]

MrLiberty

February 17th, 2010
2:44 pm

Ragnar already did a great job countering the lies about how great the FDA is, but for Rational Person, here is an excerpt from a recent article about the 600 pending lawsuits against GlaxoSmithKline over their drug Paxil and the birth defects it has caused (already numerous judgements against GSK by the way). Do remember, this drug has already been approved by the FDA:

In December 2005, the FDA reclassified Paxil from a pregnancy Category C drug to a Category D. Category D means studies in pregnant women have demonstrated a risk to the fetus. An advisory to healthcare professionals specifically stated that the “FDA has determined that exposure to paroxetine in the first trimester of pregnancy may increase the risk for congenital malformations, particularly cardiac malformations,” and advised:

“Despite this categorization,” says Vickery, “in numerous lawsuits across the country, Glaxo has continued to deny that Paxil causes birth defects.”

So in other words, the FDA first approved it as a Category C and is now changing it to a D as a result of finally getting to the bottom of GSK’s studies and all of the complaints they have been getting.

The FDA, unlike private businesses UL, CSA, TUV (electrical safety ratings companies) does no testing of their own. They rely solely on the drug companies, who then hide behind their “FDA approval” status when the lawsuits show up. While UL and others may not be doing the same thing, they care enough about their seal of approval to actually do the necessary testing.

There is no doubt that private, independent testing services could easily replace the protectionist, failed FDA in providing much better safety and quality checks. Just because we want the government gone, doesn’t mean the market doesn’t want the services. We just know that any agency that is staffed, lobbied, payed off etc. by the drug industry is probably not going to do the best job for the consumer. Government never does a good job.

B Wilson

February 19th, 2010
1:37 am

The Premier or his medical advisors obviously didn’t care about the quality of the care, just the quickness. The USA generally ranks about 40th in the world according to the World Health Organization. Canada usually ranks in the top ten. The USA does spend the most in the world on healthcare, but it doesn’t get much for their money obviously when it usually ranks below Cuba. They head hunt doctors and nurses in Canada because it is well known that Canadian trained physicians and nurses are far more competent than those trained in the USA. Most of the academics and competent medical researchers in the USA were trained abroad.

Williams going to the USA for treatment is a reversal of the norm. There are many people from the USA who use false Canadian identity papers to receive/scam free medical treatment. This happens constantly, but they would probably die if they didn’t. It isn’t as if the US government or insurance companies would notice or care. The people seem to be brainwashed into believing that government involvement in healthcare funding will lead to communism or some such thing. This is ummm paranoia or ideology taken to the extreme. Communism has been discredited for about 20 years now, the Cold War is over. The USA also seems to believe that whatever they do must be the best or the model for the rest of the world to follow. Wake up and smell the coffee!! The USA has fallen behind the times. They are a lumbering dinosaur of a country. You are not the leader of the world in anything really except their own minds.

William in Lithonia

February 19th, 2010
6:12 pm

…And 45,000 of your American neighbors die each year because they can’t afford American Health Care like the rich Canadian.

From free trade, to prisons, to health care republicans stand up for people who have no aliegence to this country and deny humane services for their own neighbors.

david

February 23rd, 2010
12:35 pm

Be afraid my fellow Americans, be very afraid.
I am born and raised in Canada and now a naturalized US Citizen.
My family is all in Canada.
Health care in Canada is universal:
- Universally cheap
- Universally bad
- Universally unavailable.
This premier didn’t write a huge check to come here for no good reason.

david

February 23rd, 2010
12:51 pm

comments like this from bleeding heart liberals are just plain stupid
“And 45,000 of your American neighbors die each year because they can’t afford American Health Care”
The other 295,955,000 have superior care – how many deaths do you think that saves every year?

Cleo

February 23rd, 2010
7:22 pm

This cracks me up. What a joke. If Obama has his way in the USA, then the same thing will happen. The rich guys will go elsewhere for their surgeries, while the rest of us peasants get stuck with the crappy, “free” government-run health care system. Danny should be ashamed of himself, and at the very least he should fly back home to Canada from his condo in Sarasota, Florida (he had his heart surgery in Miami) and get to work making Canada’s health care system better. Or he should push for every Canadian to receive government vouchers that would allow them to pay for surgeries OUTSIDE of Canada, due to its crummy health system. And did you hear? Danny might petition the Canadian government to PAY HIM BACK for his Miami surgery. What a sleaze. Time to vote him out and vote someone better in!

Ryan

February 25th, 2010
5:02 pm

He just didn’t like where the SCAR would end up and since he is independently wealthy he decided hew ould rather pay for a new procedure that will leave the scar under his arm not on his chest.

maybe you should figure out the whole story before you make an ass of yourself.

Tristan

February 26th, 2010
9:51 am

It’s predictable that US right-wingers would seize on this, even claw on it, as they are losing the argument, have in fact lost it long ago.

The premier is a wealthy, and by all accounts egotistical and impulsive politician who owns vacation-retirement property near the Florida hospital, property where he will recuperate. In other words, he is already half-Floridian.

The province he lives in has half a million people, and perhaps does not have the facilities necessary for what a wealthy person would want to buy: the best and the quickest. So, of course he would come to the US, where wealthy people can buy themselves a place at the head of the line.

For your information, there are long waiting lists in the US as well as Canada. I myself had a six-month wait to see a neurologist here in rural western Maryland. If I were wealthy like the premier, I might have bought a place at the head of the line, outside my own area.

What you are really trying to promote, even in the utter absence of any push in the direction of single-payer Canadian-style health insurance in the US, is your own Social Darwinist vision of health care. This story and your triumphalism are non-sequiturs. Obviously, you are capitalist ideologues, and when you see evidence that capitalism is not working, or rather that the evidence can no longer be hidden by your propaganda systems such as Fox News, you go into panic mode, not acknowledging deficiencies and trying to improve your own system, but in lying and distorting this episode out of all proportion.

How many of you think that global warming is a hoax? ALL OF YOU. What is the connection of these two issues? That connection is that global warming is also concrete evidence that your vaunted capitalism does not work for vast swathes of the world. This has lead to your cooking up of little fake controversies over the the science.

What I really regret is that in the news there are always shots of these Republicans giving horror stories, totally irrelevant ones at that, of “socialized medicine,” stories that are cooked up, blown out of proportion (all systems have flaws, even the best!), and just thrown out there like a panicked soldier spraying bullets, hoping he can hit his target. These stories, like this one, trumpeted by the Wyoming politician, are not adequately refuted. He should have been immediately rebutted, but if he was, that rebuttal was not shown. All along, the evidence is there and it is clear and uncontrovertible: nations that have universal health care plans have better health care outcomes than the United States, AND they cover their entire population.

These are also calmer, less stressful, more orderly societies. Try to imagine what goes on in the mind of poor uninsured people in the US: stress, and more stress, which leads to pathologies of the body and spirit, which leads to the crime and dysfunction and social breakdown that we have in abundance in the US but which is almost unknown in nations such as Canada.

How many of you social darwinists even have passports? How many of you know where Newfoundland actually IS?

Ka

February 26th, 2010
12:28 pm

My lord, it’s SO obvious some of you have no idea. I’ve lived half my adult life in Canada, half in the U.S., and I WORK for a hospital, so I have just a bit of a clue.

One of the patients at my hospital (one which treats everyone, regardless of their ability to pay), was recently informed by her insurance company that she has reached her lifetime maximum for treatment and would have to forego a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.

Actually, I lie. They didn’t tell her. They told her parents. The patient, you see, is SEVEN YEARS OLD.

The Republicans shriek about “death panels” but what do they think we have now? Insurance company doesn’t wanna pay anymore, so this little girl dies.

My mother has to have a foot of her intestines removed. She’s waited since August for the doctor to schedule the surgery; it’s finally being done in two weeks.

But hey, it could be worse – she tried to have it in the U.S., but the doctors she saw told her that the surgery was considered elective and because of her age, not worth doing (it’ s just a quality-of-life thing – she’s been in the bathroom every two hours in pain for years).

On the other hand, I was misdiagnosed for 11 years in Canada, five doctors in two provinces, telling me things like my condition was a result of my diet, or part of being female and “get used to it.” Turns out it was Endometriosis, and it took an NP in the U.S. five minutes to figure it out.

The morale of the story? Neither system is perfect. Yes, the care in the U.S. is amazing – IF you can afford it. If you are one of the tens of millions without Medicare, Medical or work-provided health care, it’s less so. Yes, the health care in Canada is amazing – if you don’t mind waiting.

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[...] to this blog, a prominent Canadian politician, The Premier for Newfoundland, Danny Williams, underwent heart [...]