America’s Canadian road trip starts today

By Sally Pipes
September 23, 2010


By Sally Pipes
The opinions expressed are her own.

Today, several of the more popular provisions of the president’s health reform law go into effect. Adult “children” will now be able to stay on their parents’ policies until they turn 26, and insurers can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of coverage they provide.

Nevertheless, congressional Democrats are running away from Obamacare as fast as they can.

Late last week, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) became the first Democrat to sign a “discharge petition” circulated by congressional Republicans as the first step toward repealing Obamacare. At least five Democrats are running ads touting their votes against health reform. And Democratic candidates have spent three times more on ads criticizing the health overhaul than on ads supporting it.

Their apprehension over Obamacare is warranted. The new health reform law will not deliver the savings the president promises, will cost more than advertised, and will not achieve universal coverage. Instead, the president has placed America on the path toward a single-payer, government-run healthcare system.

Speaking as a Canadian who has experienced socialized medicine firsthand, I urge America not to go down that road.

To see why, consider the story of Claude Castonguay, the “father of Quebec medicare.” In the 1960s, Castonguay led a health reform commission that recommended that Quebec implement a publicly funded health insurance system. The rest of the country quickly followed Quebec’s lead.

In 2007, Castonguay was asked to review Quebec’s healthcare system, 40 years after the province adopted his reforms. He concluded that Canadian health care was in crisis. “We thought we could resolve the system’s problems by rationing services or injecting massive amounts of new money into it,” he said.

His remedy? “We are proposing to give a greater role to the private sector so that people can exercise freedom of choice.”

Just as Canada’s leaders are working to extricate government from their failing healthcare system, Obamacare is injecting an unprecedented level of government into the American system.

How will the U.S. government provide health care to millions more even as new mandates force costs higher?

For starters, Obamacare imposes some $569 billion in new taxes on everything from rental properties to tanning beds.

In addition, the new law raids Medicare for funding — to the tune of $575 billion in cuts over ten years.

Obamacare also creates an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which, starting in 2014, will advise the federal government on how to reduce Medicare spending. Although the unelected, unaccountable board is nominally barred from recommending that Medicare change benefits or ration care, its proposals will almost certainly lead to such outcomes.

For example, if IPAB’s recommendations were used to cut payments to doctors and hospitals, Medicare patients would end up waiting longer to receive care — effectively rationing it.

In Canada, officials have had to employ widespread rationing in order to pay for universal coverage. Canadian patients are routinely denied access to the latest care and treatments.

Regrettably, this is something I’ve witnessed firsthand. In 2003, my uncle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My cousin, a doctor in British Columbia, inquired about the availability of Rituxan, a wonder drug that treats this disease. But the head of the provincial health service’s cancer department had never even heard of the drug.

Rituxan wasn’t available in British Columbia because it was deemed too expensive. So my uncle was told to go to the United States for treatment. But by then, he was too weak to make the trip. He died soon after.

If you think rationing like this won’t happen here, think again. It’s already happening. The Food and Drug Administration is currently considering revoking approval for Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer — despite the fact that it’s extended the lives of thousands of breast-cancer victims.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) may soon opt not to cover Provenge, an effective anti-prostate-cancer vaccine, because it’s not “reasonable and necessary.” That’s bureaucrat-speak for “too expensive.” As the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance observes, “For the first time, an FDA approved anti-cancer therapy may not be covered by Medicare.”

Such gut-wrenching denials of treatment will only grow more likely as the federal government strains to pay for Obamacare down the road.

But the American system need not follow the Canadian example. Poll after poll shows that most Americans disapprove of Obamacare. Consequently, political support for the new law is rapidly eroding.

With Democrats now wavering on the bill, it is time for Americans to make their voices heard and demand that Congress repeal Obamacare. If they don’t, they may soon see their government run out of money — and their sick relatives run out of options.

Sally Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book, “The Truth About Obamacare,” was just published.

Photo: Commission council Doug Hunt makes the Sars Commission’s final report (in foreground) public during a news conference in Toronto, January 9, 2007. The report concluded that there were widespread failures in Ontario’s healthcare system and more could have been done to protect healthcare workers during the SARS outbreak in Toronto in 2003. REUTERS/J.P. Moczulski (CANADA)


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I’m a retired Canadian who in the past, spent several years living in the USA, paying for a comprehensive healthcare plan. In my experience, it was expensive but delivered top notch coverage. However, it was in no way superior to the single pay system in Canada.

The thing that puzzles me is why the American right seems obligated to distort the facts and demonize Canadian healthcare. Why would Americans care how we run our affairs? Looks like wasted energy to me, with all the economic concerns on America’s plate these days. Over the long haul, Americans will get exactly the healthcare they deserve. Not Canada’s problem.

The substantial majority of Americans pitch infantile fits over paying taxes, but love their unfunded entitlement programmes. They also are delusional in the belief that privatized anything trumps responsibilities of the state. That would include national defence. Halliburton, and Blackrock, and Kellogg Root & Brown skimming hundreds of billions in Iraq come to mind.

By the way, how’s that WMD / War On Terror thing working out, America? Maybe you can hire some of those guys to pull your economy out of the ditch.

Posted by peteypuck | Report as abusive

Sally, Why are you lying ? Is removal of Avastin, actually rationing ? If that is rationing what about AVANDIA. Stop lying, Sally.

Avastin has many side effects and that is the prime reason. May be, you should start taking it – and prove the world that Avastin is safe not words.

Posted by Donotlie | Report as abusive

What the author leaves out is the plain fact that “around the world” whether you live in a capitalist society, communist society, or socialist society you are free to seek the medical care of your own choice, you just have to pay for it. American medical plans exclude all kinds of treatments on a variety of grounds, but mainly because they will cost the insurer too much, which means reduced profits.

Of course a government providing socialized medicine is going to try to keep costs down by rejecting costly treatments. There has to be enough money to go around right? The difference is that an insurer is going to try to make a “profit” not just break even. It is not fair to Americans to sell them “for profit” plans with high premiums and limited care. It is an obvious conflict of interest between the consumer and insurer.

American insurers have been spreading a bunch of baloney about how medical costs have increased so they have to raise our premiums. Do you actually know a doctor or two? Have you talked to them about that issue? Perhaps you should. Or perhaps they are sucking up all the little perks provider to favored doctors by drug companies?

The American doctors I know are not fooled by insurance company rhetoric and are pretty disgusted with the insurance industry. They make decent money and have not seen “their” costs rise. We talk about these very issues. They did not go into medicine to have insurance companies directing patient treatment. If you think that your insurance company has “your” best interest at heart when you have a serious and costly condition, I’ve got a bridge . . .

Get real. A sick person is just a liability in for profit America. Sick and cannot work because you got cancer? Bye, bye employer provided health insurance, you are going to lose your job, and without a job you cannot afford your insurance premiums. Next you will be on disability and then a liability for the rest of us tax payers. And without a job, the government will pay most of your medical because you “will” qualify for state or federal and programs which pay next to nothing to doctors. And you don’t think “that” is socialized medicine?

Healthcare in America is on par with healthcare in Estonia. Seriously. Research the issue. Get a passport. Travel around Western Europe. Actually see and experience the counties you are not familiar with.

Posted by KimoLee | Report as abusive