Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obamacare Previewed in the Frozen North

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You walk into a typical movie theater, and before the feature starts, you get a sneak peek at coming attractions...a preview of what is coming soon to a theater near you. Up across our northern border last week, I got a preview of the coming attraction of...Obamacare. Here's the headline of an article in the Edmonton Journal:

Ban on private imaging scans urged
The province’s medical watchdog is proposing Alberta outlaw private diagnostic imaging because it allows patients with fat wallets to jump the queue. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta will debate revised standards of practice next week that would make it unethical for doctors to provide preferential access to any insured service based on a patient’s ability to pay.

“We don’t think you should be able to buy an MRI or CT scan privately,” said college registrar Dr. Trevor Theman, “that it should all be a publicly funded service.” Albertans currently wait as long as 37 weeks for an MRI in a public facility, but the imaging can normally be done within a couple of days at private clinic if a patient can afford the $700-plus cost.

As Barack Obama might say, this is a teachable moment. Point one would be the inefficiency of government health care. An MRI is a diagnostic tool. In Canada, where healthcare is "free" (*cough* taxes), it takes a little over nine months to get an MRI diagnosis of whatever ailment or injury you may have experienced.

The second point is, there is a panel to determine just what kind of treatment you are allowed to have access to. Let's not call it a "Death Panel", let's call it a "Stay Sicker and in Pain Longer, Just to Make it Fair" panel. The SSAIPLJTMIF is appalled that some private enterprise might actually diagnose the problems for rich people in ways that are unavailable to the poor, and thus are grossly unfair. These rich fat cats "jump the queue". What we call 'cutting in line' down here in the lower 48.

Actually, $700 doesn't sound all that bad! I don't think you'd have to be rich, but maybe somewhat above the mean, income wise. But the SSAIPLJTMIF is not merely appalled, they believe it is unethical for people to freely spend their own money on a service that they need, unless the same opportunity is extended to every subject in the commonwealth. (Hmm. "commonwealth". We may be onto something here!)

On the one hand, our benevolent overlords here in the States are building a two tier system, where they do not have to suffer under the same laws and conditions they impose upon us, so maybe our Canadian brethren will teach the wealthy politicians that it is unethical for them to be treated better than their subjects? (Stop laughing!)

And it could even be argued that in a long line waiting for a limited number of diagnostic machinery (limited by government inefficiency), that every person who was well off enough to opt into a private screening would shorten the line for those poor bastids that had no other options. No, says our ruling overclass. The misery and suffering must be shared equally! However, in a follow up story in the Journal, it was noted:
"the Alberta Medical Association says the private clinics have been a partial solution to limited resources in the province’s hospitals."

It should be noted that 'for pay' MRI technology for Canadian pets is available at any veterinary clinic that cares to shell out for one. The SSAIPLJTMIF is perfectly okay with Fido getting his MRI in a timely fashion, but Grannie's hips and elbows have to wait nine months.

Another preview of things to come, is the revelation of certain clinics that are for "members only". A little higher up the food chain, and you could spend up to $10,000 a year to be a member in a clinic that would expedite your treatment. I expect to see those popping up for the millionaires and billionaires who toe the liberal line but take the private jet or helicopter offshore to visit "the club" when health services are needed.

Of course, if you receive your diagnosis nine months before the other guy, and have a problem correctable by surgery, you can then jump the next queue, or find a surgeon in the US (up until our system is as screwed up as theirs!)

In the last five years, I'd say I had two MRIs and a CAT scan. The longest I had to wait for an appointment was several days. In one case, my doctor requested it in the morning and it was done that afternoon. This wasn't for a life threatening emergency. I was ambulatory and this was on an outpatient basis.

In the land of the (currently) free, a profit motive provides incentive for an abundance of diagnostic equipment, and the subsequent ease and timeliness of access. When government assumes responsibility for health care, it must be rationed and budgeted like any other item government spends its money on, and thus is subject to lobbying, cronyism, corruption and incompetence.

To all those who say defund Obamacare now, I say "Godspeed". The rich will find ways to jump the queue or hire private physicians or access an offshore hospital ship regardless of how ever many laws are passed. Government inefficiency, except for places like the VA, Indian reservations and Medicare, which are already under the government's control, has not yet brought us into the nine month waits our friends north of the border have to see a specialist or get an MRI. We are facing a similar shortage of doctors, where it may soon be difficult to either keep your family doctor or find one who is accepting new patients. And God help you (literally) if you are a new patient on Medicare.

To paraphrase Lincoln Steffens, I have seen the future of Obamacare, and it does NOT work. It is not "unethical" to purchase something for yourself, that you need, just because someone else might not be able to. It may be unethical, or at least imprudent, to put people in charge of our health care who think it is.

Update: Another thought on the "unethical" behavior of simply buying what you yourself need. If the nannies of the nanny state want to "make it unethical for doctors to provide preferential access to any insured service based on a patient’s ability to pay", how about groceries? You need food to live, right? Should we make it unethical for grocers to provide preferential access to any food based on a person’s ability to pay? Is it unethical for someone to order steak and lobster while another man is stuck with beans and franks? And if we take the old liberal bromide "Think globally, act locally" to heart, then is it "ethical" for we in the west to have access to any food and medicine at all, when there are people dying of starvation and disease in third world countries? Something tells me, that those of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, climb into a nice car at night, drive home to a warm and comfortable house, eat until they are satisfied and never lose a minute of sleep in their memory foam beds, under their Egyptian cotton sheets, over whether or not they are themselves "ethical".

Update II: Thinking back to my own experience, none of the tests I went in for were life threatening. In fact, I drove myself to each test. In the case of my knee, I waited for months before I decided that it was serious enough to look into treatment. That was a self imposed wait. If I had lived in Canada, under the same circumstances, I think I would have waited just a week, and then put my name to the list for an MRI, not knowing whether or not I really needed one, but not willing to take the chance that if I did, I could get one in a timely fashion.

Cross posted at LCR


  1. Check this out:


    At 67 I went back to work and just about every dime I make goes into what I half jokingly call our medical tourism account. I hate Medicare...

    1. P.S. Thanks for all the linkage. I've been remiss in my showing my gratitude. Feel free to whip me with an uncooked noodle.

    2. I would, but I'm not sure your Medicare covers abrasions from noodles.

  2. The sat sicker and in pain longer panel...About right.

    1. If your choice is stand in line, in pain, like cattle, or spend your own money, possibly foregoing a flat screen TV for an MRI, it ought to be your choice, not the government's.

  3. The stay sicker...I need a editor just for my comments lately. Know a good "Proof" reader?

  4. Personal experience: I needed an MRI myself recently. Had I been using my private medical insurance, I could have had one the same afternoon. Unfortunately, this happened on the job, so it was covered by Workman's comp. The added paperwork and bureaucracy took me three weeks to get the MRI (still better than 37 wks for the Albertans) and another three weeks to see a specialist, who informed me that the repairs to my injury could have been easily repaired...had he seen me in the first three weeks after the injury. Because of the delay, more drastic measures may have to be taken.

    But no worries! The last form I sent in to Workman's Comp just got kicked back to me a month after I sent it in, for unfathomable reasons. I LOVE government controlled medicine!


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