Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Good news for Bubba!

The speed with which President Clinton received quadruple bypass surgery provides an important lesson in health-care reform that voters should keep in mind this election season.
According to Nadeem Esmail and Michael Walker of Canada's Fraser Institute, the median wait for an appointment with a cardiologist in Canada's single-payer health-care system was 3.4 weeks in 2003. The wait for urgent bypass surgery was another 2.1 weeks on top of that, while the wait for elective bypass surgery was a further 10.7 weeks. Great Britain and New Zealand have even longer waiting times for bypass surgery.

Esmail and Walker cite studies confirming that longer waits for heart surgery bring higher risks of heart attack and death. In fact, they report that U.S. hospitals act as a "safety valve" for Canadian patients who face life-threatening shortages: "The government of British Columbia contracted Washington state hospitals to perform some 200 operations in 1989 following public dismay over the 6-month waiting list for cardiac bypass surgery in the province . . . A California heart-surgery center has even advertised its services in a Vancouver newspaper."

Had America had followed his lead 10 years ago, President Clinton might not have been able to get his diagnosis and surgery appointment so quickly. Instead of waiting overnight for an appointment with a cardiologist, he might have had to wait the 3.4 weeks Canadians do. Instead of waiting three days for quadruple bypass surgery, he might have had to wait more than two weeks.

Instead of receiving care from what Sen. Clinton called "one of the great hospitals in the world," President Clinton might be looking for a safety valve.
Not to worry though, that waiting stuff is just for the little people.
Truth be told, presidents and senators will never have a hard time getting medical treatment. Esmail and Walker report "a profusion of recent research reveals that cardiovascular surgery queues are routinely jumped by the famous and politically-connected." It's the rest who have to wait.
That makes me feel so much better.