Paul Krugman tells us to ignore long wait times in Canada for “elective” surgeries and focus on the fact that, for routine medical appointments, Canadians get just a good of care as Americans.
Yes, Canadians wait longer than insured Americans for elective surgery. But over all, the average Canadian’s access to health care is as good as that of the average insured American…
He’s undoubtedly right that your average Canadian has no more trouble securing a doctor’s appointment for the sniffles or the flu or a dislocated pinky than the average American. We can all go down to the local clinic and see a doctor within a few hours.
But the sticking points are those “elective” medical procedures, as Krugman calls them. This woman had her brain surgery delayed six different times. This guy had to wait 14 weeks, over three months, for cancer surgery. This guy, who was born with his stomach in the wrong place, was put on a 14 month waiting list before he could get a procedure to make him well again. And Canada routinely stops or delays things like hip and knee replacements due to insufficient funding.
Now tell me, is brain surgery to remove a tumor an elective procedures? How about cancer surgery, or even a new hip for someone that needs it?
There’s also the indirect consequences of Canada’s slow-moving health care bureaucracy behemoth, which are typically an inability to embrace new procedures and technologies quickly and provide them for the masses (something even the current, less-than-good US health care system manages to do).
Again, if you don’t need a major operation, if all you need is a prescription to get rid of an illness. Or even if all you need is a cast to get a broken bone on the mend, Canada’s health care is probably just fine. But if you’re living under it, just hope you don’t get cancer or need a hip replacement at a time when they’re rationing those procedures.
And yes, I’m aware that there are health care “horror stories” from America’s system, but I’ve never claimed that America’s way of doing things is perfect. Or that it doesn’t need fixing. I’m just saying that we aren’t going to fix our problems by copying Canada and inviting the much more serious problems that country has.