Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

July 30, 2007

Single-Payer Health Care Doesn’t Work, And Michael Moore Is Wrong

by Doug Mataconis

Another Canadian speaks out against the simplistic conclusions made by Michael Moore in his new movie Sicko:

In his new movie “Sicko,” Michael Moore uses a clip of my appearance earlier this year on “The O’Reilly Factor” to introduce a segment on the glories of Canadian health care. Moore adores the Canadian system. I do not.

I am a new American, but I grew up and worked for many years in Canada. And I know the health-care system of my native country much more intimately than Moore. There’s a good reason why my former countrymen with the money to do so either use the services of a booming industry of illegal private clinics, or come to America to take advantage of the health care that Moore denounces.

Government-run health care in Canada inevitably devolves into a dehumanizing system of triage, where the weak and the elderly are hastened to their fates by actuarial calculation. Having fought the Canadian health-care bureaucracy on behalf of my ailing mother just two years ago — she was too old, and too sick, to merit the highest-quality care in the government’s eyes — I can honestly say that Moore’s preferred health-care system is something I wouldn’t wish on him.

In 1999, my uncle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If he’d lived in America, the miracle drug Rituxan might have saved him. But Rituxan wasn’t approved for use in Canada, and he lost his battle with cancer.

But don’t take my word for it: Even the Toronto Star agrees that Moore’s endorsement of Canadian health care is overwrought and factually challenged. And the Star is considered a left-wing newspaper, even by Canadian standards.

Just last month, the Star’s Peter Howell reported from the Cannes Film Festival that Moore became irate when Canadian reporters challenged his portrayal of their national health-care system. “You Canadians! You used to be so funny!” exclaimed an exasperated Moore. “You gave us all our best comedians. When did you turn so dark?”

Moore further claimed that the infamously long waiting lists in Canada are merely a reflection of the fact that Canadians have a longer life expectancy than Americans, and that the sterling system is swamped by too many Canadians who live too long.

Canada’s media know better. In 2006, the average wait time from seeing a primary-care doctor to getting treatment by a specialist was over four months. Out of a population of 32 million, there are about 3.2 million Canadians trying to get a primary-care doctor. Today, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada ranks 24th out of 28 countries in doctors per thousand people.

So when do you think the American media will start pointing out that even people in Canada recognize that their health care system is broken beyond repair ?

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  • David

    I believe that article was written by “Sally C. Pipes President and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute”. She funded by the Health Care and Drug industry.

  • http://pubcrawler.blogspot.com/ tkc

    I was blogging about this topic also. I just included this post.

    http://pubcrawler.blogspot.com/2007/07/here-is-morbid-thought.html

  • http://kyhealthcare.org Harriette Seiler

    Not Sally Pipes again! Has she turned in her Canada health card now that she’s a CEO at Pacific? How about those quasi-researchers hired by her former employer, the Fraser Institute, to parrot the pro-markets message? Are they eager to pay for their own health insurance and care?

    Since my own mother received excellent care in an Ontario nursing home (run according to standards set by the ministry of health), I was sorry to hear that Sally’s mother had problems getting the quality of care she expected and deserved. However, for every negative anecdote about Canadian health care, I can offer a hundred US horror stories.

    Sally and Newt Gingrich talk of Canadians streaming across the border for health care in the US, but a recent Harvard study shows that border hospitals have treated comparatively few Canadians. Where could those “phantoms in the snow” be hiding?

    This debate between “single payer” advocates and the spokespersons from Cato, Galen, Pacific or Fraser groups is a dialogue of the deaf. I just wish the idealogues on the right would back up statements with real research. Even Michael Moore does that,eh!

  • http://www.kaisernetwork.org/health_cast/health2008hc.cfm?&hc=2258 js290

    Are they eager to pay for their own health insurance and care?

    You think you can get someone to pay for my house and car insurance? While you’re at it, how about getting that someone to pay for my house and car? I probably need my housing and transportation a lot more than I need health coverage right now. Thanks for any help on this.

    This debate between “single payer” advocates and the spokespersons from Cato, Galen, Pacific or Fraser groups is a dialogue of the deaf. I just wish the idealogues on the right would back up statements with real research. Even Michael Moore does that,eh!

    How will a single payer system prevent my local hospital from trying to charge me and my insurance provider $938 for four sutures that took them all of 20 minutes to perform and required me to wait for over 3.5 hours? Will a single payer system finally allow them to tell me how much they were going to charge me for the procedure before they performed it? In other words, how does a single payer system keep costs under control?

  • http://www.no-treason.com Joshua Holmes

    Sally and Newt Gingrich talk of Canadians streaming across the border for health care in the US, but a recent Harvard study shows that border hospitals have treated comparatively few Canadians. Where could those “phantoms in the snow” be hiding?

    If they’re coming across the border to use American healthcare, they’re probably coming for difficult and sophisticated procedures. Since most of the American border is pretty barren, I expect Canadians wouldn’t be heading for border hospitals, but for big cities with specialists.

  • Doc Lee

    Joshua,

    The Canadian National Population Health Survey which is a survey of 20,000 random people in Canada conducted every other year since 1994 has shown that 0.5% of Canadians have received health care in the US. Less than 0.1% of the Canadians have gone to the US specifically for treatment. These most certainly are “phantoms in the snow,” especially considering an estimated 1 million Americans yearly travel to Canada for prescription drugs. What’s even more startling is that although recent data is very limited on the subject, 60,000 medical claims in Ontario alone between August 1992 and February 1993 were from Americans. Furthermore, the National Coalition on Health Care published a report last year stating that 500,000 Americans had traveled overseas specifically for health care, so-called health care tourism.

  • Logan

    js290 has it spot-on. Read http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig7/crovelli7.html to see that socializing health care is just a way to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic without actually solving the problem of high health care prices.

    Doc Lee,

    As for Americans travelling abroad for health services, I can recall Aaron Russo (of “America: Freedom to Fascism” fame) traveled to Germany because the US outlawed a specific treatment for some type of cancer. So, the FDA or AMA (or some other regulatory body) might be to blame for forcing the outsourcing of certain treatments.

    As for the 1 million Americans traveling north for drugs, that’s because of price controls. Canada and the whole socialized medicine world uses the US as a subsidy for cheap drugs by free-riding off of Americans who must pay semi-fair prices for drugs. If America imposed Canadian type price controls on drugs, it would kill future private drug research, leaving both the US and the world with fewer medical choices.

    Harriette,

    So where are these hundred horror stories? Please share and provide a link. Because for every 100 US horror stories, I have 1000 Canadian horror stories. Talk about anecdotal (fake) stats to try to explain away anecdotal evidence.

  • Jem

    “How will a single payer system prevent my local hospital from trying to charge me and my insurance provider $938 for four sutures that took them all of 20 minutes to perform and required me to wait for over 3.5 hours? Will a single payer system finally allow them to tell me how much they were going to charge me for the procedure before they performed it? In other words, how does a single payer system keep costs under control?”

    Research more about the Canadian system. Costs are agreed upon beforehand by the various provincial medical associations and the government insurance. Audits are carried out regularly. There’s a *lot* of good links to primary sources about this.

    There actually are some Crown Corporations of car insurance that are owned by Saskatchewan which is the founder of medicare in Canada, for economic, locale, and social reasons: (google “SGI” and read it’s Wikipedia entry).

  • Jem

    “As for the 1 million Americans traveling north for drugs, that’s because of price controls. Canada and the whole socialized medicine world uses the US as a subsidy for cheap drugs by free-riding off of Americans who must pay semi-fair prices for drugs. If America imposed Canadian type price controls on drugs, it would kill future private drug research, leaving both the US and the world with fewer medical choices.”

    Most drugs spring from universities, tribes, etc. that should be public domain anyways, and the drug companies in the US spend more money on advertising and marketing in very questionable ways — just check out their SEC statements. They really aren’t that innovative, and in any case, they’d much rather research their cash cow vanity drugs than more radical drugs. Drug advertising is banned in Canada as well, for good reason. Realize that the US benefits from Canadian research as well.

    The Canadian drug system works like this: http://www.aarp.org/bulletin/prescription/Articles/a2003-08-12-whydrugs.html

    “To meet the “not excessive” yardstick, manufacturers must meet these guidelines:

    * Prices must not exceed the highest Canadian price of existing drugs used to treat the same disease.
    * For “breakthrough” drugs, which are unique and have no competitors, prices must be no higher than the median of the price for the same drug charged in seven other countries: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
    * Over time, prices cannot be increased beyond the general rate of inflation, as reflected in Canada’s Consumer Price Index.”

    In addition, Logan, you may want to look at the percent of budget that Canada spends on health care vs. the money wasted in the US (administrative, lack of buying power, etc), as well as the lower per capita cost in Canada. Insurance also tends to like to deny you the things you thought you were covered under too, unlike Canada’s Medicare.

  • http://www.kaisernetwork.org/health_cast/health2008hc.cfm?&hc=2258 js290

    Research more about the Canadian system. Costs are agreed upon beforehand by the various provincial medical associations and the government insurance. Audits are carried out regularly. There’s a *lot* of good links to primary sources about this.

    My insurance company agreed to pay the hospital $450 after I paid my $150 co-pay. So, the hospital was paid $600 for the four sutures they performed on me. The hospital then made some adjustments and tried to bill me for the remainder. That is to say, the hospital and the insurance came to an prior agreement on price, yet the hospital still decided it wasn’t paid enough. So, the question becomes, how can you as a consumer be certain the best price has been negotiated? I assume the audits are done by the government? If so, why would one trust a government audit over a consumer advocacy group?

    I don’t see how a single payer system is any different than the dysfunctional third party payer system currently implemented in the US. In the end, the healthier people who consume less healthcare are subsidizing the less healthy.

  • http://www.kaisernetwork.org/health_cast/health2008hc.cfm?&hc=2258 js290

    If America imposed Canadian type price controls on drugs…

    Isn’t the War on Drugs just our version of price controls?

    …it would kill future private drug research…

    Yeah, they can stop wasting time trying to synthesize THC. But, I guess drugs in pill form are more socially acceptable.

    …leaving both the US and the world with fewer medical choices.

    Just the way AMA would want it…

  • Pingback: » Today’s Debate: Canada junking national health? | ZDNet Healthcare | ZDNet.com

  • http://kyhealthcare.org Harriette Seiler

    I actually hate the thought of jumping back into this fray–but since Sally Pipes is now a consultant to Giuliani–here goes! One hundred horror stories about US health care? Let’s see–Add up all those testimonials on the Michael Moore site, plus those recently published in the NY Times and local papers across the country. Then add the 18 real-life stories given at a hearing we held last year in Louisville. Go down to the ER at your local US hospital, or ask a small business owner about his/her escalating premiums.

    I’ve just been listening to a debate about SCHIP on NPR. While decrying government-run health care, the Bush administration and the insurers say they are eager to cover every man, woman and child,–provided they have the government’s help, that is. Under their proposals, the taxpayers will (a) cover the poor by subsidizing mandated premiums, (b) pay their own high premiums and deductibles, and (c) contribute over 25 cents of every health care dollar to corporate profits. Is that the administration’s idea of letting the markets work?
    “We the people” ought to be able to manage this ourselves without giving United, Humana, or Anthem a cut of the action. That’s our money, folks–and we are being robbed! Support a single-payer, taxpayer-funded system as detailed in HR 676, now before Congress.

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