Human Exceptionalism

Calgary Cataract Wait Shows Peril of Nationalized Health Care

I once supported a single payer health care plan for the USA and considered Canada to be the ideal model. I changed my mind after I went on a speaking gig to Ontario and the local newspaper headline screamed that 900,000 Ontarians could not find a primary care physician due to doctors refusing new patients. Then, I began noticing the long waits for surgeries, women being sent to the USA to give birth, and other antitheses of the easy access to care that the vast majority of Americans take for granted.

Here’s a case in point: Cataract surgery is readily available in the USA, but in Calgary, they are now very difficult to obtain. From the story:

Calgary ophthalmologists say waiting times for cataract surgeries in the city have skyrocketed since the cash-strapped Alberta superboard slashed the number of the procedures it purchased this year.

One major Calgary clinic, Gimbel Eye Centre, said the number of cataract patients on its waiting list doubled to 2,290 from 1,124 six months ago. A second facility, Mitchell Eye Centre, said delays were growing so long it had to cancel all mild and moderate cataract cases and is now concentrating only on nearly blind patients.

“About a year ago, we had almost no waiting list. It was terrific,”said Dr.Robert Mitch-ell, an ophthalmologist who owns the Calgary clinic. “It’s a bit scary how fast that can turn around . . . We only now book the severe cases.”

The main problems in the USA–and they require remediation–are insurance company cherry picking, the people who are involuntarily without health insurance, and the insecurity people feel about losing health insurance if they become unemployed.

But required universal access or a single payer system are not the answers. Rather, experience shows that they would make matters worse by inverting the problem.

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