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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It was Danny Williams' choice

The Premier of Newfoundland has laid out his ultimate defense for avoiding wait times and going to the United States for his medical care. His defense is that it was his health and it was his choice.

He is absolutely right, and frankly who can blame him? In such a situation I would want the best care that I could afford as well. Anyone who would say otherwise would either be lying to you or lying to themselves. So no, I hold nothing against Mr. Williams for his quite reasonable decision.

I do, however, point out that this illustrates a truth about our healthcare system that has long been ignored by policy makers. We have a two tiered health system, the Canadian system and the American system. The idea that our system is somehow universal and egalitarian is a myth. If UniversalHealthcare was brought to Canada to make sure everyone got equal care than it has failed.

So instead of perpetuating that failure why don't we take a serious look at reform? Why don't we give up on what is clearly an unreasonable goal of equality and instead try to figure out the best way to deliverhealthcare? Too much of this debate is filled with foolish rhetoric and thoughtless assertions.

It is time that we all get a chance to make choices in healthcare.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on February 23, 2010 | Permalink


As long as our health care remains free, but I agree, the government has to step back and take a good look at the system, It is getting out of hand!

Rest well Danny Get better soon!

Posted by: Marc | 2010-02-23 8:30:07 AM

It is surprizing that M. William had to go to Miami for is operation.
There is a medical team in Quebec city who perform exactly the same heart surgery technique. (they repaired heart valve by passing under the arm between the ribs)

Posted by: Jean Drapeau | 2010-02-23 9:28:53 AM

The state monopoly on health care in Canada is an accident of history. It has taken on a shape that its proponents and framers, including Tommy Douglas and Lester Pearson, never envisioned. It's one thing to offer medical care to those who could not otherwise afford it; it's another to declare yourself the only game in town, outlawing all competitors, saying in effect that if some people have to suffer for three years waiting for a hip replacement, then so be it.

Somehow I doubt that was the original idea.

Fortunately, many cracks now show in the facade of this uniquely Canadian attitude towards health care. Québec has ruled it unconstitutional, for one thing, which it totally is. Private clinics have sprung up in Vancouver and probably elsewhere. And now the premier of Newfoundland (and Harper's avowed enemy) has sought private care in the U.S., while talk of queue-jumping, once a toxic political swamp, has now dwindled to a dispirited murmur.

The rats are in the water, gentlemen. It's only a matter of time before the rusty hulk finally sinks.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-23 9:29:33 AM

Daanny Williams makes a great point that people should have control of their own health care and have choices.

Now if only the government of Canada could follow that lead.

Marc, you really think its free?

Posted by: Floyd Looney | 2010-02-23 9:37:48 AM

It drives me nuts when people argue that, in Canada, at least you don't have to mortgage your home to get health care. Well, for the average person to get the kind of care Williams got that's exactly what they'd have to do. And as long as it's illegal for regular people to buy insurance in this country that's what's going to happen. Medicare will continue to put people in the poor house.

Posted by: Farmer Joe | 2010-02-23 10:35:07 AM

"As long as our health care remains free"

I kindof choked on that one as well ...

Posted by: Charles | 2010-02-23 11:11:54 AM

Canadians, in their nationalist fervor have allowed the NDP-left-lib politics of hatred and resentment to enslave them to a monopoly rationed system. This monstrosity has grown from what should have been a simple notion of public health care for the poor. The shrewdness of the concept of universality, IE, negating any differential treatment within the dominion was brilliant if an egalitarian nation was the goal, and it was.

Allowing individuals to leave the dominion to pay for their own health care is clearly something which must be addressed by the left-libs to complete the pavement on the road to serfdom.

Shane, those private surgical clinics in Vancouver are only legally available for third party payees (eg. WCB and ICBC) not individual Canadians. I believe that you are "allowed" to pay for enhanced diagnostics.

I don't believe that Canadians will change the system in the foreseeable future because of the nationalist emotions (anti-American) which have cloaked the system. There is also a high level of support from people who know no other system and who feel they are getting decent service (and most are). There is also a certain inherent national stoicism in suffering for the greater good. Its only when you are one of those treasonous individuals (like me) on the waiting lists and leave to discover that alternatives exist in availability and quality.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-02-23 11:20:52 AM

I am from the USA. I am happy to pay $400 a month for health insurenace so that I can see whatever doctor I want and get the best care without having to wait on a list. I have had heart surgery, two hernia surgeries, a broken leg, a shoulder surgery and many other medical problems. As it stands right now I am 63 years old and have good health simply because I am allowed to get the best care I can possibly get simply because I am allosed to pay for health insurance.

Sometime ago, I spoke with a truck driver from Canada. He had a lung problem that might have been cured in the USA. However, he was placed on a Canafian waiting list and died waiting for treatment. It is OK to be anti-American but it seems foolish to lose you health because of it. A lot of Canadians come to the USA for the winter months. They take advantage of our health care system and seem to like it.

Posted by: Newell | 2010-02-23 11:45:38 AM

Actually, John, Medicare in its original form was supposed to be a taxable benefit; i.e., you would pay the tax that would be levied on an amount of income equivalent to what the bill would have been. This would have made medicine more affordable without encouraging abuse. Insurance companies employ deductibles for a similar purpose.

Also, a visit to the False Creek Surgical Centre website suggests that it offers a variety of surgical procedures, especially cosmetic, orthepedic, and obstetric, in addition to diagnostics. Its repertoire is largely limited to "elective" surgeries, true, but it's definitely a start. And the ruling by the Québec court is difficult to ignore.

You're right about one thing, though. Medicare losing its monopoly in Canada will require a Democrat in the White House.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-23 11:54:42 AM

I am glad all was successful for Mr Williams.After listening to his statement I could not agree with him more. It is His body,It was his decision,he was willing to pay for it.That is what we in The USA are striving to preserve,the right to make our own decisions.I wonder where Mr Wlliams would have gone had he not had American medicine on his door step.If Mr obama gets his way we will have nowhere to go and neither will you

Posted by: libertyandvirtue.com | 2010-02-23 12:16:17 PM

great to have choice when it comes to your medical care isn't it danny? now you see why we're fighting so hard to keep it here in the states.

Posted by: michael | 2010-02-23 12:27:42 PM

I have no problem with someone taking their health into their own hands and doing what they feel is best. But, doesn't Danny Williams have a larger responsibility to the people he serves and expects to use the system he created as the provincial leader ultimately responsible for its citizen's medical care?

Simply put, political leaders (and that includes the prime minister, opposition leaders who want to be prime minister and premiers) should not have a "let them eat cake" attitude when it comes to health care.

That's the way I see it and you would think the Shotgun blog would agree since it belittled Jack Layton for going to the Shouldice Clinic a few years ago.

I guess I am confused here: If it's OK for Danny, then why wasn't it OK for Jack too? Because as the Shotgun blog says, whether Jack was right to do so or not should also be his choice since it was about his health.

Posted by: OttawaJeff | 2010-02-23 12:31:13 PM

Ottawa Jeff,

The Shotgun Blog is written by a few people with slightly different (though generally similar) opinions. I remember the incident you refer to but I don't remember the post about it (I didn't write it). So I can't comment on that.

I do agree with you that a politician that appreciates choice in his own health should find ways to give that same opportunity to the people that the politician represents.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2010-02-23 2:42:52 PM

if Kyoto went through, then only the very rich could afford medical care in Canada because the NDP/Liebral party would have sent all tax revenue to foreign countries in exchange for "carbon credits." This is why global warming is a hoax and Kyoto is a scam. They must be resisted to the bitter end. As they said at Thermopylae in the movie 300 - "No prisoners! no mercy!"

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-23 3:21:55 PM

What are you Canadians going to do when Obama destroys the US health care system. Looks like you would just be stuck with your own then.

Posted by: Steve | 2010-02-23 3:51:41 PM

It seems Danny has a condo in Miami. That may be one of his main reasons for having the surgery there. His convalescence would be much easier, with a residence nearby.

I found out, yesterday, that cataract surgery, in AB, must be done under the AB health care system. All those private eye clinics are for corrective surgery, only. I'll find out, in a couple of weeks, what the wait time is. Because I'm having difficulty doing my job(and typing), I hope to shorten that time. If not, I may have to seek help, outside the province.

I'd be screwed, if both eyes had gone on the blink. Loss of revenue for a couple of months would be a good incentive to spend a little money, south of the border.

Posted by: dp | 2010-02-23 4:26:13 PM

If, and the if is getting more iffy by the day Obama co-opts congress into ramming his health care through, then assuming his war on prosperity doesn't wipe out all private wealth, you could see clinics and other facilities aligned on either side of both US borders designed to exclusively accommodate private health care refugees of the adjacent country (not Mexico). This will evolve to avoid the mandates and Obama-care restrictions barring practitioners from contracting directly with patients in the US as in Canada. The good news for Canadians is the economic shot in the arm. The bad news is they'll still have to go to the US to clinics just for Canadians.

If Obama gets a second term, then Americans deserve the socialist hell that he brings with him. They can be partially excused for his first term because he didn't spell out his agenda to the superficially motivated (non socialist) voters.

Thankfully, Obama is not a Prime Minister with a parliamentary majority. He is now pretty close to being gridlocked by his own party in anticipation of the mid-term elections. After that, pure gridlock. His pathological narcissism might then cause him to resign or act up in such a way as to be impeached.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-02-23 5:02:45 PM

It turns my stomach to see how prople can talk about Mr. Williams going to the USA . for the
type of operation that he had . In my opinion
most of them are just jealous of anyone who
can offord to go where they choose for an operation whatever it may be. If Mr. Williams
was not the premier and could afford to go
where ever for an operation not one word would
have been said . It seems that people always
seem to have a dislike for most people who seem
to better themselves in life even when it is done
through hard work . Most should be giving thanks for ones neighbour , but of course most humans will rather complain and put one another down .
Mr. Williams I hope that your operation was a
great succes and wishing you and your family all
the very best . Ches Gardner

Posted by: Ches Gardner | 2010-02-23 6:09:22 PM

Yes, Newell, you are correct. The world is full of people who would rather die than reevaluate a treasured prejudice. For some, loving is not so pleasing a thing as hating. It makes no sense but it is true.

That said, health costs are out of control in both countries. The U.S. actually spends more on health per capita than any other country, even those whose systems receive higher ratings. Barring a major shift in tort law, prices aren't going anywhere but up.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-23 6:58:11 PM

Ches, we don't begrudge Williams being able and willing to pay for his choice of treatment. What we begrudge is not having the same option north of the border. We don't necessarily want to see the public system disappear; we just want alternatives to it.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-23 7:01:31 PM

"...it's another to declare yourself the only game in town, outlawing all competitors, saying in effect that if some people have to suffer for three years waiting for a hip replacement, then so be it.

Somehow I doubt that was the original idea."

As horrific as it sounds, that WAS the original idea. Philosophically and emotionally: the idea was envy - "if I can't have it, neither should he have it".

As a matter of political strategy: the idea was "universality" - the idea that if there is only one insurer, everyone will want that insurer to be good, which means that everyone will want that insurer to have all the money it needs to provide good service, which - in a system that gives the SAME health care to everyone, regardless of having earned it - means that those who can afford good quality health care will end up paying EXTRA to SUBSIDIZE those who cannot afford good quality health care. Universality is the name of the strategy whereby everyone is forced into a common pot for the implicit PURPOSE of giving the productive a MOTIVATION to subsidize those the value of whose productivity is less than the value of the health care services they want.

Ethically, the issue was: altruism - provide for the bare needs of others before providing to yourself more than the bare needs...which, of course, leaves "bare needs" on a sliding scale.

Legally and politically, the issue was: in exchange for banning private insurance and giving the province a monopoly on health insurance, the Progressive Conservative government would get some of the revenues raised by federal taxes, which means that provincial politicians would not be blamed for the taxes, but would be praised for spending the (federally-derived) money. It also gave the provincial conservatives (in Ontario, it was the Progressive Conservatives) an excuse to introduce a brand new tax: the provincial personal income tax, which it used to fund the province's half of the health insurance tab.

The socialists played the political opportunists like they would children. AFTER the fact, they played up the notion that a ban on health insurance competition is the ultimate statement of Canada's nature, and propped up a(nother) collectivist eugenicist as Canada's no. 1 hero.

Given the barrage of collectivist BS that Canadians are inundated with year after year, a person in 2010 must be forgiven for finding it hard to believe that socialized health care was an intentional evil.

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-02-23 7:45:21 PM

Interesting, Paul. Not what I read, but still interesting.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-23 8:17:43 PM

Mr obama gets his way we will have nowhere to go and neither will you

Posted by: libertyandvirtue.com | 2010-02-23 12:16:17 PM

Those that can afford it have been flying out of this country for medical reasons for decades. Danny could afford it. More power to him. No politician goes on a waiting list for anything. Nothing new here and nothing that will change in the near future.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-23 11:10:10 PM

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