Canadian Defender of Medicare Admits that Waiting Lists in Canada are Long

Early this morning (PDT), C-SPAN carried an interesting interview and call-in show with Dr. Ouelett, outgoing president of the Canadian Medical Association. Although Ouelett defended Medicare, Canada’s system of government-payer medical care, he admitted that there are long lines for medical care. He said that this is, in fact, the main problem with Canada’s system.

Yet, when shown an ad in which a Canadian woman, Shona Holmes, stated that getting treated in the U.S. for a brain tumor saved her life, and asked to comment, Ouelett commented that her case was said but that “people are not dying in the streets in Canada.” That was interesting because Ms. Holmes’s complaint was consistent with Dr. Ouelett’s complaint and Ms. Holmes had not claimed that “people were dying in the streets.”

Ouelett also stated, in response to one caller, that people in Canada don’t even have to think about money when deciding to seek health care. Exactly. In other words, people treat a costly good as if it’s free. He saw that as a virtue rather than a defect.

The moderator of the show, Steve Scully, played a segment from a forthcoming show in which the speaker, T.R. Reid, stated that a Canadian had told him that the poor people in Canada don’t mind waiting for health care as long as the rich do too. Two things are interesting about that: first, both Reid and the guy he talked to admit that there are line-ups and second, the Canadian guy and, according to the Canadian guy, Canadians in general, think line-ups are fine as long as everyone lines up. Should we have everyone line up for food too?

BTW, here’s Ouelett giving Canada’s Medicare an F for line-ups (with Europe as his favorite model.) A highlight from the good doctor:

People were very surprised when I told them our target for hip replacement was six months. They said, “This is your target?” and they couldn’t believe that.