We read so much about the problems facing the American health care system I began wondering what folks in other countries complain about. After all, advocates for single-payer systems are always pointing to Canada or Europe to show how much better things are elsewhere. Yet reports on other health care systems are always filtered through the political prism of the presenter.
So I found a Canadian news service — CNW Group (“the nation’s number one resource for time-critical news and information from more than 10,000 sources coast to coast and around the world.”) It’s sort of a Canadian Associated Press. On eof the recent headlines caught my eye “Ontario Party Leaders message to cancer patients: Keep waiting.” It seems a grass roots campaign launched a cancer patient support group sent letters to the leaders of the province’s three major parties. They noted Ontario ranks poorly in funding new intravenous cancer drugs (British Columbia funds 20 while Ontario fully funds only four). Further, Ontario ranks last among Canadian provinces when it comes to funding PET scan imaging (Quebec funded 209 PET scans per 1000,000 population; Ontario only six).
The party leaders failed to commit to improving Ontario’s ranking, instead offering reassurances of their commitment to health care for all Ontarians. Or as one of the consumer advocates noted, “All three leaders have been talking about their commitment to health care on the campaign trail, but none of them seem to be willing to be accountable for measurable results.” The consumer group intends to demonstrate at public meetings of the candidate to educate their fellow citizens on the subject.
This all got me thinking about how a politicized health care system would work in America. Would we have candidates making the round of disease-focused associations pledging increased funding? Would incumbants be attacked for long waits for services? When health care costs continued to rise (as they will given the aging population, the cost of new technologies, and the like) would the rascals in charge be thrown out of office?
Even if voters punished politicians for failures in the health care system, I’m not sure much would change. The challenges facing the American health care system is about far more than the financing mechanism. It’s about making tough choices about what adequate health care is. It’s about making objective investigations into waste in the system and having the skill and tools to eliminate that waste.
A wise man once told me you never really fix problems, you just replace them with new ones. Folks who look to Canada and Europe for answers should subscribe to services like CNW. Because health insurance reform is only the beginning, not the end, to the challenges we face.