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Canadian Health Insurance Not Good Enough For Premier

Armen Hareyan's picture

Supporters of healthcare reform have pointed to our neighbors to the north, Canada, as an alternate system. Canadians receive health insurance through their national government, which is paid for through their taxes. They have the famous socialized medicine often maligned in America. Most proposals put forward by Democrats in the United States are far from that point, yet they are painted with the same brush.

Opponents of comprehensive healthcare reform warn that increased government involvement in health insurance may put the nation on a slippery slope towards a national single-payer insurance system. Those warnings were a factor in the defeat of the public option in Congress: although that government-run health insurance plan did not seek to dismantle the private health insurance industry, it may have had that impact in the future. Beyond philosophical concerns regarding government spending, many have said that the quality of health care received is lower under socialized medicine. It seems that Canadian Premier Danny Williams would agree with that statement, at least privately.

The Newfoundland and Labrador politician has chosen to visit the United States for open heart surgery. In the past, Williams has spoken in support of Canada's Medicare for all-like system, and in fact has exhorted the U.S. to follow his nation's model. He is appearing to be a hypocrite, especially due to his attempt to suppress news of his trip. His spokesperson has not revealed which hospital, or even which state, he will undergo the procedure in. Representatives for Williams claim that he spoke with local doctors before making his decision. While the exact nature of Williams' surgery is unknown, it is commonly believed to be unavailable in his province--but available in other parts of Canada.

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Why would he choose to receive such surgery in the U.S. instead of Canada? Even those who favor socialized medicine admit that there are longer wait times for treatment under the Canadian system, although they believe such a situation to be preferable to not receiving treatment at all. Triage is an extremely delicate balancing act, whether it is done by a hospital or a nation. However, how good is health insurance if it doesn't work when you need it most?

Since 2005, the Canada Supreme Court has allowed citizens to travel south to the United States for health care. In practice, it is usually wealthy individuals able to pay cash in full, such as Williams, who benefit. In effect, he is saying that the policy he considers good enough for regular Canadians isn't for him. Although few would want Premier Williams to die on principle, he is setting a horrible example of inequality.

More charitable interpretations from the Canadian press attempt to defend their nation's Medicare system. Editorials are speculating that he may have had privacy concerns, which have clearly backfired. They also point to the fact that the more populous United States may have a greater number of specialists with more experience in a particular area. It doesn't necessarily make Canadian doctors any better or worse; it is also likely that Canadian doctors have fewer patients per-capita in order to hone their skills.

In America, Republicans are having a field day with the news. They have also been known to confront Democrats in Congress and ask them if they would accept the health insurance they were planning to provide the rest of the nation. Danny Williams has given opponents of health insurance reform more ammunition. It may be enough to give a death blow to the Obama administration's prospects for healthcare reform.

Yamileth Medina
VitalOne Health Plans Direct, LLC.