Friday, September 10, 2004

Be Careful What You Wish For

Michael Cannon in today's National Review Online points out that if Bill Clinton's health care plan had been implemented ten years ago, he'd likely still be waiting in a long, long line for his heart surgery, with every moment perilously ticking away:
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 an additional 10.7 weeks. Canadian doctors reported that a "reasonable" wait would be 0.9 and 6.1 weeks, respectively. 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 result in a higher risk of heart attack and death.

In fact, they report that American 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 centre has even advertised its services in a Vancouver newspaper."
According to Clinton's doctors, he was only weeks away from a major heart attack. Would he have made it under the knife in time?

Fortunately he never had to wait to find out, since his health care plan (much like the one currently advocated by John Kerry) was snuffed out by a Republican Congress.

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