Single-payer health care, Canada style: Is this something we want?

I posted earlier this year about how Canada’s health care system is being attacked in the courts by people who are finding it not only lacking but dangerous to their health. In light of the push by President Obama to nationalize this country’s health care system comes this story:

A critically ill premature baby is moved to a U.S hospital to get the treatment she couldn’t get in the system we’re told we should emulate. Cost-effective care? In Canada, as elsewhere, you get what you pay for.

Ava Isabella Stinson was born last Thursday at St. Joseph’s hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. Weighing only two pounds, she was born 13 weeks premature and needed some very special care. Unfortunately, there were no open neonatal intensive care beds for her at St. Joseph’s — or anywhere else in the entire province of Ontario, it seems.

Canada’s perfectly planned and cost-effective system had no room at the inn for Ava, who of necessity had to be sent across the border to a Buffalo, N.Y., hospital to suffer under our chaotic and costly system. She had no time to be put on a Canadian waiting list. She got the care she needed at an American hospital under a system President Obama has labeled “unsustainable.”

Or consider this episode, from the same story:

In 2007, a Canadian woman gave birth to extremely rare identical quadruplets — Autumn, Brooke, Calissa and Dahlia Jepps. They were born in the United States to Canadian parents because there was again no space available at any Canadian neonatal care unit. All they had was a wing and a prayer.

The Jepps, a nurse and a respiratory technician flew from Calgary, a city of a million people, 325 miles to Benefit Hospital in Great Falls, Mont., a city of 56,000. The girls are doing fine, thanks to our system where care still trumps cost and where being without insurance does not mean being without care.

When the government starts calling the shots about health care, the fear is that there will be hard decisions made about what care is cost effective and what care is deemed as unnecessary. When private doctors are competing against the government, you have to wonder what choices will be left for the average citizen. While we have talked much here about how abortions are pushed as the choice for parents with Down syndrome babies, consider how choices will be made for women facing difficult pregnancies under a nationalized system. Again, from the Yahoo! article:

Infant mortality rates are often cited as a reason socialized medicine and a single-payer system is supposed to be better than what we have here. But according to Dr. Linda Halderman, a policy adviser in the California State Senate, these comparisons are bogus.

As she points out, in the U.S., low birth-weight babies are still babies. In Canada, Germany and Austria, apremature baby weighing less than 500 grams is not considered a living child and is not counted in such statistics. They’re considered “unsalvageable” and therefore never alive.

Norway boasts one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world — until you factor in weight at birth, and then its rate is no better than in the U.S.

In other countries babies that survive less than 24 hours are also excluded and are classified as “stillborn.” In the U.S. any infant that shows any sign of life for any length of time is considered a live birth.

A child born in Hong Kong or Japan that lives less than a day is reported as a “miscarriage” and not counted. In Switzerland and other parts of Europe, a baby is not counted as a baby if it is less than 30 centimeters in length.

In 2007, there were at least 40 mothers and their babies who were airlifted from British Columbia alone to the U.S. because Canadian hospitals didn’t have room. It’s worth noting that since 2000, 42 of the world’s 52 surviving babies weighing less than 400g (0.9 pounds) were born in the U.S.

It must be embarrassing to Canada that a G-7 economy and a country of 30 million people can’t offer the same level of health care as a town of just over 50,000 in rural Montana. Where will Canada send its preemies and other critical patients when we adopt their health care system?

There is no doubt that health care costs are high in this country. But it is also true that it is more likely people will get critical care in a timely manner here than in other parts of the world. We have to ask ourselves: Is what we see outside this country really enough better to trash what we have now?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s