I’m an independent filmmaker with no ties to the health insurance or healthcare industry — only a personal concern about American liberty and medical freedom. I’ve made a number of short films about health care policy — specifically for the internet — and featured on a new website: www.freemarketcure.com.
Michael Moore’s new movie, "Sicko", is set to inject a large dose of misinformation and propaganda into our national dialog about health care policy. According to one observer, Michael Moore has created a love letter to the Canadian system. However, Americans should know that Canada rations health care and that many Canadians wait inordinately long periods of time for urgent medical treatment. The Fraser Institute’s annual report "Waiting Your Turn" estimates that Canadians are waiting for nearly 800,000 medical procedures. If the Canadian system was adopted in the U.S. — and you assume one person per treatment – that would translate to nearly 7.3 million Americans. Not 7.3 million Americans theoretically without health care due to a lack of insurance — but 7.3 million Americans who need medical treatment but cannot get it without being on long waiting lists.
How long? In Canada, it depends on the province and the type of treatment. The median wait time for medical treatment in Canada in 2006 was 17.8 weeks. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s not hard to find Canadians who have waited months to get an MRI, and years for some types of treatments. There are multiple kinds of waits in the Canadian system: the wait to see a specialist, the wait to get a diagnostic test, the wait to get surgery — and then the wait for rescheduled surgery after one’s initial surgical appointment has been cancelled — sometimes multiple times — a routine phenomenon. Waits for orthopedic surgery can be multiple years – and in the case of some elderly Canadians – forever. Waits for things like gastric bypass and sleep apnea treatment are routinely 4-5 years.
My short movie, "A Short Course in Brain Surgery," highlights the plight of Lindsay McCreith, a Canadian with a suspected brain tumor who had to wait four months for an MRI. Instead, he crossed the border to the U.S and got it in two days. He then faced another four month wait just to see a specialist in order to schedule surgery which would represent yet another wait. Instead, he had the tumor removed in the U.S. — immediately. It turned out to be early stage brain cancer.
Another short, "Two Women," chronicles the sad story of Janice Fraser who, unable to urinate, needed to have a pacemaker-type device implanted to control her bladder. Unfortunately, the hospital arbitrarily rationed the operation by doing only one per month. Janice was number 32 on the list — nearly a three year wait. She ended up waiting so long that she developed life-threatening infections, had to have her bladder removed in an emergency procedure, and will now wear a urine bag for the rest of her life.
"The Lemon" tells the story of Shirley Healey who was suffering from a near total blockage of her mesoenteric artery, which feeds blood to the bowels. She was slowly starving and risked death by waiting in Canada. She came to Bellingham, Washington where she got her life-saving operation immediately. The American surgeon who operated said that the Canadian patients are the worst, most dangerous cases he sees — due to the long waits.
Consider this: across Canada, thousands of baby boomers and the elderly often wait years for knee and hip replacements; often in great pain while taking powerful narcotics. However, a dog in Canada can get a joint replacement operation at a veterinary hospital done in a matter of weeks.
The real danger of adopting a system like the one in Canada is not just long waits for medical treatment. Americans would pay much higher taxes and lose important liberties while turning over personal life-and-death decisions to government bureaucrats.