Sunday, June 28, 2009

Canada Care

Ed Morrissey comments on the state of care in Canada.
My friend Michael Stickings links to a story of bureaucratic outrages involving an acutely ill premature baby, but only focuses on one particular outrage while excusing the other.  Because Canada does not have the capacity to deal with the demand for neo-natal intensive care for premature births, the single-payer system sent the critically ill child to the United States for treatment.  Unfortunately, the parents do not have passports which are now required for crossing the border, and the US refuses to allow them into the country without them...

...Well, it's impossible to look at this situation without seeing the relative merits of the American and Canadian systems.  First, the child would have gotten care in the US, too, regardless of insurance status.  People get emergency care regardless in this country.  There is a difference between health insurance and access to care that some people elide for purposes of political argument.  No one gets turned away from emergency care for lack of ability to pay.

But why wasn't there a NICU bed for the child in the entire nation of Canada?  The government of Canada won't pay for more.  They don't exist to expand supply to meet demand; their single-payer system exists to ration care as a cost-saving mechanism.  In a free-market system, supply expands to meet demand, which is why Canada could subcontract out to a US hospital for capacity.  Michael writes that paragraph as if it was mere luck that an NICU bed happened to be open in the US, but that's a function of the system, and not luck.  These parents are separated from their child at the moment through the fault of Canada's government and not the US.


Primerica said...

Eh, judging the whole system by one case feels a bit strange to me. It's like eating a rotten apple and then saying all apples are rotten and thus bad. I understand it is a sad incident that happened to this baby but saying it happens to every baby in Canada is a bit off...

Take care, Lorne

Karl said...

If I wanted to, I could post all day about individual cases where individual doctors blow it in Canada, Great Britain, or anywhere else the government is the exclusive or dominant payer for health care.

This case is significant because it shows the failings of not just one doctor, or just one hospital, but of an entire system that had no reserve capacity.

Now, maybe this was an outlier, and there had been a spike in premature baby cases which overwhelmed the system. But here's a post at Gateway Pundit which points out:

This was not an isolated incident. Hamilton's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is closed to new admissions about 50 per cent of the time. The rest of the special needs babies are sent elsewhere and often to the United States. Don Surber reported that this tends to be the rule rather than the exception...

If we put our medical system under the same constraints Canada enjoys, where will we send our premies?