Monday, November 12, 2007

Debunking Canada's Healthcare Mythology

For those who believe North Korea and Canada are models for California’s healthcare solution, radio host Anthony Vultaggio and policy analyst Ralph Weber (CFP, REBC) unraveled the mythology for KRLA listeners last week. Mr. Weber’s thoughtful analysis is easily understood, and if you miss something you can replay it. Incidentally, Mr. Weber says that he pays $250/mo for complete coverage for his family of four!

As if Mr. Weber’s testimony wasn’t compelling enough, the former Medical Director for Diagnostic Imaging at Thunder Bay Regional Hospital called in with several Kafkaesque stories of waste, bureaucracy, and inefficiency.

Dr. Lee Kurisko MD, who practiced in Canada for 13 years before moving to Minnesota, said that his hospital serviced a “catchment area” of about 250,000 people with only one MRI and one CT scanner. The waiting period for elective MRIs in Thunder Bay was 13 months – the CT scan seven months. In Newfoundland, the waiting period was 2½ years! Some physicians had a two-year waiting list for consultation. Unless you’re wealthy enough to seek treatment in another country, or you’re a politician (they exempt themselves from Canadian healthcare), Canadians must tell their lumps and tumors to wait.

Dr. Kurisko described his hospital’s equipment as old, decrepit and dangerous: “To get new equipment, one had to be politically connected to the ‘levers of power.’” As the Director of Medical Imagining, his lofty title gave him no authority to perform. Unlike the United States, it often takes years to get new equipment.

Dr. Kurisko also described how he reviewed cases by posting x-rays on a screen, reviewing the images, taking them down, writing a report, and putting up another set – repeating the process for each of his 40,000 annual cases! When he asked for a rolloscope to improve efficiency, the hospital CEO said there was no money in the budget, but that he could contact the Ministry of Health (700 miles away) and plead a “special case.”

Dr. Kurisko, who left Canada to practice in Minnesota, also exposed two other Canadian healthcare fallacies – That, 1) problems can be fixed by raising their 43 percent federal and provincial taxes and, 2) medical outcomes are better for Canadians.

This show is well worth hearing and sending to your friends. I also plan to ask Mr. Weber about his $250/mo healthcare policy, which could save me over $6000 annually!