Re "A Canadian diagnosis," Opinion, Aug. 3
As an American with family in Canada, I assure you that Michael M. Rachlis' points on the advantages of Canada's single-payer system are right on target. I'm amazed that our insurance and pharmaceutical special interests have fought healthcare reform to a standstill by propagandizing the public with arguments that are easily refuted.
Rachlis identifies the profit-seeking healthcare industries' overhead as the major cause of our excessive spending. This leads to the conclusion that President Obama's attempts at bipartisanship by giving the insurance and pharmaceutical industries a seat at the healthcare reform table are misguided. These special interests are the problem; it's difficult to picture them as part of the solution.
Brian L. Masson
Three years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Quebec's prohibition of private insurance because "access to a waiting list does not constitute access to healthcare." A few more things can be said about Canadian care.
Canadians have a longer average life span than Americans, but fewer Canadians are killed on their highways, abuse illegal drugs, are shot on the street, are killed in foreign wars, are obese or are in poor health when they enter the country illegally. That was true before Canada collectivized its medical care, and is true now.
A single-payer system does not "negotiate" lower payments, but imposes them by decree. That is why many new medications are not available and why there is a shortage of diagnostic and other medical equipment. Why do so many Canadians travel to the U.S. for treatment when similar services are paid for in Canada? Why are private clinics of dubious legality becoming more common in Canada?
Richard E. Ralston
The writer is executive director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.
A breath of fresh air blew pleasantly across my path while reading Rachlis' straightforward comparison between the healthcare for our neighbors in Canada and our attempts to bring much needed national healthcare to our citizenry here in the States. I loved his lesson, "Canadian healthcare delivery problems have nothing to do with our single-payer system and can be fixed by re-engineering for quality."
Since the U.S. hasn't achieved universal healthcare yet, we can learn from those countries that now have it. We don't even have to reinvent the wheel.
Rachlis paints a rosy picture of Canadian healthcare. He makes general reference to orthopedic care in Toronto. Let me tell of a specific case.
My sister-in-law lives in a small town in British Columbia. She waited six months for an appointment with a joint-replacement specialist. She was told to call between 9 and 10:30 a.m. on a specified day to confirm her appointment. She was told she would have a few minutes with the doctor and was to talk only of the specified problem and no other. (I am not making this up.) When she finally met the surgeon, he declined to give her the needed surgery. She is 80 years old and now limps around in pain.
To compare orthopedic care in Toronto with the rest of Canada is like comparing the healthcare of our senators with care in rural Iowa. I do not consider U.S. healthcare "broken," but I agree that many improvements could be made. Rather than changing the system for all of us, it's more logical to tackle the needs of the uninsured and underserved.
Don Martin MD