Human Exceptionalism

Single Payer = Long Waits for Care

We are often told that Canada’s single payer health system is the ideal for the USA. I once believed it. No longer. Canada rations care, occasionally by refusing coverage but mostly by loooo–ooo–ooong waits for needed tests and care.  True, the country is trying to improve, but centralized control makes that tough.  And now, the latest report card is in and it isn’t good. From the Toronto Star story:

The 2012 report card issued Tuesday showed no change in grades for the national average. That means good news for cancer patients waiting for radiation therapy and those waiting for a coronary bypass. They both received an “A” grade, meaning that at least 80 per cent of the people requiring those treatments received them within the benchmark set by governments — four weeks for radiation and 26 weeks for heart surgery.

That’s the good news?  One half-year is allowed for heart surgery and still 20% had to wait longer?

Here’s the disturbing conclusion:

Many of the benchmarks — including those set by the government — measure the amount of time patients have to wait between visiting a specialist and receiving whatever treatment that specialist decided they need. The report notes that patients measure this time differently — beginning from the onset of illness — and that it can often take far longer to find a family doctor or wait for an appointment with a specialist than it does to receive treatment. “Waiting for specialist treatment is really just the tip of the iceberg, and when you add up all the waiting periods endured by patients, the total wait for care can be very lengthy,” Simpson said in the release.

And remember, patients sometimes have to fly hundreds or thousands of miles away to obtain treatment–including sometimes to other countries like the USA. Top-down centralized control doesn’t work.  I would prefer that it did. But it doesn’t.



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