Their editorial challenged my assertion that someone my age — 59 — would be hard pressed to get a health care bureaucracy to approve hip replacement surgery. The paper found the average age for hip replacement is 65, but that tells us nothing about the bureaucratic hurdles patients jump to get a procedure approved. The Wall Street Journal reported the story of Bill Murray of Alberta, Canada, who sought help for his arthritic hip for over a year. Finally, the specialist recommended advanced hip replacement surgery. But the health care bureaucrats decided Murray, age 57, was “too old” for the procedure and denied his request. Adding insult to injury, they told him he couldn’t spend his own money on the surgery!
Blunt is correct that the claims of Bill Murray and a couple of Canadian cancer survivors is getting lots of play with the right-wing. Steve Benen’s discussion of these narratives back in May generated some salient comments. One Canadian familiar with assertions made by these individuals, all of whom are bringing court cases supported by the right-wing Canadian Constitutional Foundation, noted:
They’re all asking for the single-payer to be struck down, giving everyone the right to buy private insurance. On the surface, the case is not very strong, as their problem is not with single-payer, but rather with what seems like a misdiagnosis … . As for Murray, he wanted the single-payer insurer to pay for a deluxe surgery (the Birmingham hip) rather than the regular one which was available to him.
One point made over and over again in the comments underlines the fact that it is not wise to generalize based on a few examples:
Conservative groups may need to scour Canada and Britain to find two horror stories (of a kind that would occur under any system, no matter how good), but supporters of reform in this country would need go no further than their nearest hospital to find ample evidence of how badly broken the US system is.
However, the real issue is that Blunt and others pointing the finger at Canada are attempting to confuse the public through misdirection. As Blunt knows very well, the Canadian single-payer health care delivery system, whatever its strengths and weaknesses, bears no resemblance to the proposals emanating from the U.S. Congress. Benen is correct that:
Reformed health care in the U.S. would, in all likelihood, look more like what you find in France, the Netherlands, or Switzerland. These countries don’t have problems with chronic waiting times. In fact, access to some services — particularly primary and emergency care — is easier and quicker than it is in the U.S. But these countries also make sure everybody has insurance coverage — and generous coverage at that.
It is ironic that Blunt begins his op-ed by saying:
I was surprised that our lengthy conversation generated one editorial challenging minor points from a 90 -minute meeting, rather than a constructive analysis of the hottest topic in public policy today.
He then, as noted above, digs himself into a deeper hole by pretending that the U.S. will adopt a Canadian-style health care system, offers weak, if sensational-sounding examples of its failures, and later even pretends that it is meaningful to compare international survival rates for just one cherry picked disease. I wonder what he thinks a constructive analysis is — there is certainly not much of it in his latest effort. After reading it, I have some inkling of how they must have felt at the Post-Dispatch after their meeting with Mr. Blunt.