What the Danny Williams’ case says about Canadian health care

Both sides of the border are squawking about the premier’s trip to the U.S. for treatment

No sooner did news break that Danny Williams had flown south to the United States for treatment of an undisclosed heart condition than the chronic debate about the state of Canadian health care went critical. Opponents of universal insurance—both in Canada and the U.S.—pounced on his trip as a told-you-so moment. The populist Newfoundland premier has, after all, been an ardent defender of the public system. Campaigning during the 2008 federal election to keep Stephen Harper from winning seats in his province, he warned Newfoundland voters that a majority Harper government would threaten Canada Health Act tenets like universality, public administration and accessibility. “Nothing would be safe, quite frankly,” Williams said, “when it comes to going after sacrosanct principles.”

Those principles don’t say anything—at least, not exactly—that conflicts with the right of a 60-year-old Canadian millionaire-politician to check himself into an expensive American clinic for cardiac care. And Newfoundlanders, by and large, saw it that way, leaping to Williams’ defence through talk radio, Facebook get-well messages, and letters to the editor. Some went so far as to say that what’s good for Danny’s heart is good for Newfoundland and Labrador. “I think he’s looking after his health and his best interests,” said Dean MacDonald, a St. John’s venture capitalist and old friend of the premier. “And clearly his best interests are the province’s best interests.”

Off the island, however, such stalwart declarations of support gave way to conflicting claims. Critics of public health insurance seized on this latest case of high-profile medical tourism as proof the Canadian way must be second rate—and no model for America. “This should be a wake-up call to Congress and the administration,” said a Fox News medical commentator. “It is a fact beyond dispute that the United States remains the global destination for patients from all over the world.” Canadian conservatives pounced, too. “It’s symbolic,” said Brett Skinner, president of Vancouver’s Fraser Institute. “These services are not available at all or not available on a timely basis here in Canada.”

That seemed like a reasonable conclusion to draw. Why else would Williams wing off to the U.S.? However, a chorus of Canadian physicians said they were at a loss to think of any heart surgeries, beyond rare and exotic procedures, done in the U.S. that aren’t readily available at Canadian institutes, although often not in Newfoundland. Dr. Bryce Taylor, surgeon-in-chief at Toronto’s prestigious University Health Network, said Ontario’s heart centres offer the latest techniques with virtually no waiting lists, unless a patient insists on a particular famous surgeon. Taylor was annoyed by pundits who assumed Williams went south to get some better procedure faster. “They were impugning our ability to give patients good access,” he said.

There are, of course, differences between what’s on offer on either side of the border. For example, Taylor said some wealthy patients are enticed to U.S. medical “boutiques” that advertise surgery with very small incisions and sometimes robotic equipment. But those innovations are not proven, he added, to be better for the patient. Doctors in both Canada and the U.S. are divided on them. Another difference is the deluxe service offered, for a price, by some famous U.S. hospitals, such as the highly ranked Cleveland Clinic. “It is true that the Cleveland Clinic has so-called concierge treatment,” Taylor said. “They will meet visitors at the airport in limos. I suppose that might be very seductive.”

Canadian hospitals can’t match expensive U.S. clinics when it comes to upscale amenities. Keeping pace on cutting-edge procedures is another matter. When it comes to repairing heart valves, for instance, specialists in Ontario, like virtuoso surgeon Dr. Tirone David, Toronto General Hospital’s head of cardiovascular surgery, are internationally renowned. Why don’t sick American millionaires come north for such surgeries then? Actually, they often ask to, but are usually turned down. The reason: since 2004 Canadian physicians and hospitals have generally not been insured if malpractice suits are brought against them following elective surgeries in U.S. courts, where judgements can be huge.

No matter how many eminent physicians leapt to the defence of Canadian heart specialists, news of Williams’ decision left a lot of Canadians with the impression cardiac care must be better in the U.S. Dr. Jack Tu, senior scientist at Toronto’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, has researched outcomes for heart patients in the two countries. Despite famously contrasting health insurance systems, Tu said there’s little difference. But in a recent, unpublished comparison, he found Canada seems to do somewhat better when it comes to patients having to be readmitted to hospital after being discharged following treatment for heart failure. In the U.S., about a quarter end up back in hospital within a month; in Canada, it’s about one-fifth.

Tu suspects pressure to keep hospital bills down means U.S. patients are more likely to be discharged a bit too soon. “In Canada, hospitals are on a global budget,” he observed. “We don’t have insurance companies bugging doctors to send people home quickly.” In fact, the issue of readmissions has prompted the American College of Cardiology and the U.S. Institute for Healthcare Improvement to launch a program called Hospital to Home, in a bid to find ways to lower that troubling readmission rate. Even the elite U.S. hospitals are seized by the issue. Last year, the Cleveland Clinic appointed a task force to study the problem. Broadly speaking, Tu said American hospitals tend to have the edge in technology and intensive care facilities, but Canada’s health system is better at caring for patients over longer periods, including after they leave hospital, and in making sure they get the prescription drugs they need.

Such distinctions in strong and weak points between the two countries didn’t figure in the Williams uproar. It came down to one rich guy’s ability to exit the system he had insistently championed. “If he wants to buy 20-year-old Scotch, I don’t have an issue with it. If he wants to spend his money on his health, I have no issue with it,” said Dr. David Gratzer, a Toronto physician and critic of the Canadian health system. “My issue is with his hypocrisy. My issue is that he says, ‘This is good enough for you, but if I run into trouble I’m taking my jet to Boston or Cleveland.’ ”

Nobody keeps track of how many well-off Canadians pay out of their own pockets for American care. Occasionally provincial health plans pay for U.S. care for ordinary people when services aren’t readily available at home. Provinces spent $1.14 million on U.S. care in 2007-08—less than 0.001 per cent of total health spending. But that’s no more precise an indicator of shortcomings in the Canadian system than Williams’ trip is. Dr. Lorne Bellan, chair of the Wait Times Alliance, an organization of Canadian doctors aimed at speeding up access to treatment, said those problems are serious, complex, and likely to get worse as the population ages.

According to Bellan, provinces made quick progress after Paul Martin’s short-lived Liberal government cut a deal with them in 2004 to funnel $5.5 billion over 10 years into cutting wait times. Queues for cataract surgery, joint replacements and other high-demand procedures shrank fast. Then the Conservatives won election in 2006 on a promise of bringing in wait time “guarantees.” In 2007, each province signed on to deliver one health service, from radiation therapy to bypass surgery, within a guaranteed period. But Bellan said these were token gestures in areas where the waits were already reasonably short. Real progress stalled as politicians shifted to focusing on issues like climate change and the economy.

At least, until the Danny Williams story. “It’s brought to light again this question of what our system is able to provide in Canada,” Bellan said. “It allows us to point out again that there is unfinished business.” Among the persistent problems, he said: shortages of MRI machines and nerve-wracking waits for surgery for serious but non-life-threatening conditions.

Officials in Williams’ office said his surgery was done on Feb. 4 and he was released from intensive care the next day. He is expected to say more about where he went and why when he comes home within a couple of weeks. Whatever his personal story turns out to be, if those details spark only another round of crude claims about complicated issues, the episode won’t have done nothing to move the Canadian health care debate forward.




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What the Danny Williams’ case says about Canadian health care

  1. Williams loves the drama, he's a megalomaniac

  2. This has to be the most feeble-minded attempt of defending Canada's health care system ever .

  3. Be glad you have medical. Here in the states it cost so much you can’t afford it. Don;t let them fool you on the wait time here either, if you call for a appointment you will be lucky if you get in within 90 days. If your sick thats tough. Many here, have to do without medical care because they can’t afford it.
    So they say the states have the best care but what good in that if you can’t afford it.
    Regular Dr office call $180.00 to see
    Specialist office call $290 to $350 to see
    For examples
    If you can’t pay all within a certain time they sue you.

    • So what? if you smartly hide your assets, they can kiss you behind.

    • If you can`t afford $180 or $350 it just shows how apthetic you are.What do you do for a living that makes sure you can`t afford $350?You live in a card board box?

      • Up until recently that was almost 2 weeks income for a person working full time at a minimum wage job in some states… Obviously quite a lot of people would be hard pressed to pay such prices as those.

      • You are a real a**hole. Maybe they do live in a cardborad box. Must be nice to have lots of money laying around. Do you realize that right now over 6 million Americans are living with food stamps are their only source of income? The real unemployment rate (i.e. not the bogus rate released by the government)) is over 20%, and in Detroit its almost 50%? Apathy has nothing to do with it.

        • I just make a modest income.I know my priorities and I put them first.I know what`s best for me and I certainly don`t like being told that I have a good healthcare system by a moron who never uses it himself.Yeah 6 million Americans out 350 million people,big deal.What about the other 344 million who can take care of themselves?Yeah,let`s all put welfare spongers first.You didn`t even address my question.How can you not afford $350,nobody goes to hospital or the doctor all the time,what do you do for a living?Do tell.What deos it say about you if you have to sued to because you didn`t pay $180 – 350,seriously?

          • Good point Tom.
            If 40% of income wasn't going for taxes, and health care, we would have the money for the health care provider of our choice. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Has anyone calculated what is deducted in taxes in Canada vs. the States?

            BTW why is it such a secret about Danny's 'procedure? He's a hypocrite. He dissed PM Harper on National TV, claiming the CPC would ruin our sacred cow health care, and then he steps out because it didn't meet his needs.

          • Are you guys listening to yourselves? You're small buisness ownwer and you break your leg and need surgery. Now hat? Who pays for the checkup, wh paies for the casts, the surgeries? On top of that, you still have your mortgage to pay, forget about your car and god forbird you have kids in school.

            Point is, should medical care be a burden? Should you really need to go through the trouble of hiding your assets?

      • I am not sure where you got these numbers: I paid 2 years $75 for visit at walk in clinic in Rolla, Missouri. From the other hand Province of Alberta spends 15 billion dollars for health care in Alberta which comes down to $5000 per person and $20,000 per family of 4 and this money you can get best healt insurance in States.

  4. Pretty balanced article. As the interviewed doctor put it: no one has a problem with Williams buying whatever he feels like buying. The problem is reconciling his actions with his past statements. If he needed to go stateside for this surgery, then why is the Canadian system unable to provide it?

    One thing seems indisputable to me the debate about whether to have a two-tier system in Canada is over. We have one. The rich can fly to the US for services they can't easily get here. The only yet-to-be-determined feature is whether this higher tier should be provided in Canada as well, or whether we'd rather leave it to the US medical system. There are good arguments on both sides of this question. I wish Geddes had delved into it.

    • The thing is,if the US gets rid of it`s heatlth care system and replaces it with ours,where will people fly for healthcare?.How about the government allow private hospitals?Why should foreigners be paid our money for surgery when we can put private care here?This should be a choice,those who love the public system should line up and fund it themselves.Those who want private care can line up,take out insurance and fund that too.How about that?People want a choose the food they eat,the television cahnnels to watch,the cable company they want,the phone company they want,but when it comes to healthcare,you have the government declaring that it should be the only one doing this,they are so proud of it,they never use it themselves.

      • I see your arguments, and raise you a few from the other side:

        - doctors in the private practices will make more, thus siphoning the best away from the public system
        - there will be fewer doctors in the public system, thus worsening wait times and shortages even compared to the current situation
        - although a two-tier system does currently exist, at least we have the moral satisfaction of being able to say that in Canada all patients are (at least in principle) treated equally

        This is not an easy issue – there are serious considerations on either side.

        • Of copurse,doctors in rpivate practice would make more,the private sector pays more and they put clients first and do thinsgs efficiently and quickly
          kly.It`s all about sevice and they always want people to refer other people to them.People would opt to go to the private system for urgent care of they know they have to put up with wait times.If it`s introduced,all these people would use it because you won`t have to wait.The private sector knows how to do things better.So no wonder doctors would leave,people will always move on somewhere if they are offered more money and less of a workload and a more consisntent schedule.I am sure all these workers wouldn`t mind having it because they already get health benefits from employers.The public system already has shortages and braindrain,if you must know.

          • Are you seriously trying to say that dealing with mutliple insureres is mroe efficeint and quicker?

  5. Why nobody bothers to mention how much it cost Williams to have treatment in USA?

    If you want the best treatment money can buy, of course USA system wins hands down. Rich people don't need to bother with public health care. The real question here is: can average worker afford that type of treatment? if they can, then USA system is better. if they cannot, then Canadian system is better.

    Surely it's better to receive some kind of treatment if you are poor, even if there is a waiting list, than to be simply rejected for lack of insurance or forced into bankruptcy.

  6. As a previous comment said it is the hypocracy that galls me. Williams is FINALLY honest about what he really thinks of Canadian health care when he bolts for the border when it is his precious skin. I would not say a word if he were not a defender of our system which essentially charges top dollar for 5th rate service. Emergency services are decent but almost everthing else stinks. Try getting a specialist appointment in under a year. I have had extensive experience over the last few years and it is totally unacceptable. If I had Williams dough I would be doing exactly the same thing. The difference is I would not be a lying hypocrite while he obviously is.

  7. It sure is great of you to take this opportunity to advertise your services; this is why our system is broken because MDs such as yourself need to make more money on the backs of the health care system. The money pit we call health services will never be fixed until we make the need cuts to sustain it.

  8. It doesn't sound to me like you are very supportive of the Canadian model at all, and further, you actually give the impression of fairly shameless self promotion for your new business venture which is apparently just the business of sending people south for procedures. Finally, I have to wonder what modest means is in your view. Most people would say a modest income is perhaps 20 – 30 000 for a single person. I cannot imagine anyone making less than 6 figures could realistically consider your service. In whose worldview is that a "modest income"??

  9. Thank you Gaunilon for your comments.

    Perhaps, the question is not, "Why is the Canadian system unable to provide it?", but the question should be re phrased as, "Why did he go stateside to receive the surgery?". As mentioned in this article, technology and more importantly, health outcomes, rivals, if not surpasses, the US health care system. I think any reasonable person could come up with a list of reasons, such as executive treatment ( quick service/ no wait time, anonymity). Yes, Canada could offer more private, executive, faster treatment—but at what cost? If you can pay for these services in the United States then yes, you will receive them. Do you want your neighbor, who may make more than you, to jump ahead of the que because he or she can pay more? Should higher salary coincide with better health outcomes?
    Also— people pay high costs to go to Mexico for 'specialized' cancer treatment, which unfortunately is often out-dated chemotherapeutics and heavy doses of steroids (see snake oil)—-which raises the question—-does Mexico offer superior health care?
    When people are given options and ample financial means, they will not always do the most logical thing, but what appeals to their own personal interests. Health care consumerism is becoming the norm and should not confused with what is best for Canadian health care.

    Sincerely, ardent supporter of public health care in Canada

    • The Canadian system does not surpass anything.Paul Martin Jean Chretien,Jack Layton all use private clinics.Why do you think that is?What is to be said about system whose ardent defenders do not even trust it enough to use it?The problem with most people who defend this system is that they have never been to a hospital.Don`t worry,soon enough,reality does sink in and when it does,you will never say those words againit`s never a pretty sight.People who go to Mexico do so against the advice of their doctors to get cosmetic surgery and prescription drugs.All you have to do is bribe them and they will do whatever you want,doesn`t matter what your condition is.

    • Wow, your rationalization looks like the politics of envy to me. Unfortunately, that is an undertone that pervades most media discussion of this topic, and much of the actual political rhetoric as well. Well, why shouldn't folks who choose to spend more money be treated better/faster. They are with everything else. Maybe that will motivate people to make more money? In Canada, people who want to spend more just go to the US. We all know many people who have done it. The true idiocy is in denying people the ability to spend their money in Canada! Other than N Korea and Cuba, Canada is the only other country to outlaw Health Care choice. How stupid is that? Losing patients in Canada to private clinics leaves more room for the rest of us!

      A classic psychology experiment shows that there is an underclass of people who will deliberately choose to disadvantage themselves to ensure that their colleagues are similarly disadvantaged. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number from that underclass has chosen to live in Canada………

    • Funny what a little digging will bring up. Thanks for that. It is always good to see exactly where the information is comming from.

  10. I don't get the point here. If a millionaire wants to spend a truckload of cash on Rolls Royce treatment at a private U.S. institution for the upper-classes, what's the problem? If I had truckloads of cash, I'd go for it too.

    I'm not a millionaire, though. Neither are most Canadians. We have to go into public wards with hospital food and noisy neighbors, just like most Americans do in their hospitals. The difference is we don't have to mortgage our homes to do so.

    Am I supposed to think it's a travesty that Canadian hospitals do not offer private suites, private doctors, steak dinners and self-flushing bidets in every room to millionaires willing to pay? Not really.

    I'd just as soon leave the elite treatment to Americans. They can keep the costs lower by hiring illegal immigrants as orderlies.

  11. "If he needed to go stateside for this surgery, then why is the Canadian system unable to provide it? "

    He didn't need to go the states. He chose to go there for the perks of quiet room, a private doctor, a private jet, a private nurse, and gourmet meals that people like us would never be able to afford, be it in the U.S. or here.

    I'm glad he has to go the U.S. for the gold-plated treatment. We don't really need it here.

    • We don't really need it here.

      Guy, help me out: why do we need to make it illegal to sell insurance to cover this gold-plated tier here?

      • For the same reason you're not allowed to receive a single-payer system in the US. Duh.

        Darn, you act as if someone is holding you back from seeking out what you want.

        Next time you get sick, just do the same thing as dan-o………………………………….What's the problem.

        • That's the best you could do? For the same reason? What reason is that? Government stupidity? Braying jackass special-interest loudmouths?

          Did you think long enough to distinguish between the restriction of freedom in one country and the reduced confiscation of wealth thanks to the absence of a universal entitlement in the other? Oh, wait. You wrote "not allowed to receive a single-payer system." So there it is. You didn't think at all.

          And why do you think it's perfectly acceptable to restrict the freedom of individual Canadians to devote their own resources to their own health inside their own country, as long as we can schlep over the border? Has it occurred to you that not every Canadian can so easily schlep? And even if every Canadian could so easily schlep, why is everybody so cool with the restriction of this freedom?

  12. Well, let's be honest, no system in the world is all wine and honey. Wliiliams, notorious for his antiCanadian political stunts, like Yanking down the Red&White from buildings will understandably raise political suspicions no matter what he does. Behaviour has consequences. Do I care if Wliiliams puts ammo in the hands of the likes of virulent Canada haters like Greg Gutfeld? Not really, he's a Canada-hater afterall. What would such a loathsome evildoer matter? Wlliiams can go where he wants, make whatever claims he wants, and back them up with reasoned silence. Who cares.

    In the end of the equation, I have to wonder if what he did is a compliment or condemnation of the system down south?

    If I were an American – almost 1 million a year of whom must seek out surgery in other countries because they cant afford it at home – would I find it flattering that a foreigner could swagger onto my soil and get ushered immediately for attention, when I couldn't?

    I guess it depends on where your interests lie. And no one can deny someone for pursuing what is in their best interest. The trick is in deciding where yours rest.

  13. This is not very complicated…. I don't give a sht for all the reasons for this or reasons for that…. fancy or plain…
    the simple fact is this rich Canadian did not stand in line like everyone else… instead he got on a plane and went to the US for an operation.
    Fact… better and faster treatment in US if you have the money. Fact… if you live in Canada and you don't have the money, too fkg bad… stand in line and wait and hope that we have the ability to operate here in Canada.

  14. T. Collon, I hope your altruism will reduce the tens of thousand of Americans that flock across the Canadian border for treatment. Like the underground railroad, Canadians have risen to defend the oppressed, innumerable numbers even "marrying" Americans so they receive the health care they need to se their kids grow up, later on,

    Granted, the digital cards now in place in Ontario were meant to curb the hordes of your countrymen that in their
    sad state attempted to use fraudulent cards for access. But do not take this as apathy from Canadian citizens. We do care. How could we not?

    I hope your kind enterprise can help solve one of the greatest causes of bankruptcy among the backbone of America – medical costs.

    I'm sure you're working on it.

    Perhaps the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans ( disproportionately larger than the number of Canadians going to the US ) that must go abroad for medical help can be addressed, as well.

    Best wishes.

  15. I can`t understand the outcry about Williams saying one thing ( defending our Canadian system ) and then galloping to the states for their medical services. A `Do as I say, not Do as I do `philosophy. Have you ever heard ANY politician tell the truth ( apart from Tommy Douglas and Stanfield ) É Have you not heard them speaking continually with a forked tongue.What planet do you guys come from . And as for that `M.D. `pushing his business – why don`t you go over there and stay . ( Actually I bet he is no more an M.D. than I am a Rhodes Scholar. )

    • …Danny is a Rhodes Scholar…

      • So that's it! When Danny found out he was sick, was his first instinct to 'hit the Rhode'?

  16. So far I have found the debate on our health care and the Americans using storieslike this to sling mud at our health care system amusing.
    In comparison to our health care system and others in the world including Cuba, the American system is disgusting. I have read articles that have shown their Insurance companies are making it difficult for hospitals to receive payment for legitimate claims. The reduction in cash flow and the extra staff the hospitals require to recover their money has caused them to reduce services or in some cases throw in the towel and close altogether. Insurance companies make profit by taking and do not add any useful benifit to their current health care system. The extra burden of bogging down claims only makes it worse. Along with the bankruptcies and the millions with no insurance makes me wonder why their citizens have put up with it.
    Now for some mud slinging of our own.
    In 1987 the Ontario provincial auditor found we had 25 million active health cards in a province of 9 million people. Maybe if the Americans got their own health care system they would get off of ours and I wouldn't have to wait in line as long at the emergency room and Danny wouldn't feel so bad about getting his ticker fixed here.
    If my life was on he line and I could get better care elsware I would do the same.

  17. The biggest problem with any western health care programs is the cost of delivering services. When a surgical table costs as much as a Lamborghini (the NB gov't just paid $200,000 for one that any decent machinist could have built for $15,000 and made a tidy profit), and a surgical drill costs $50,000, its time to rethink things.

  18. in the big scheme of things, who cares?
    If he has the money to go elsewhere, let him as long as no Canadian is being denied treatment because of his trip.
    i have no problem with a 2 or 3 or 4 tier healthcare system as long as it doesn't impact negatively on the day to day lives or access to treatment for everyday Canadians. it is their money. in fact, all it does is free up a physician and/or treatment for another deserving Canadian. also, think of the extra funds he will have to pay for follow-up visits.

  19. There should be a free market in health care, that is the only way for prices to go down and quality to go up (why are computers and shoes always getting better faster than health care?).

    The US system is NOT a free market. It is a corporatist system – the plethora of regulations ensures that there ability for anyone to compete with the entrenched interests (big insurance, pharmaceutical, the AMA). This is why health care is so expensive in the States.

    Free enterprise trumps corporatism and socialism – just don't confuse corporatism as advocated by Republicans as free enterprise.

  20. I don't know but just watch Sicko

    The average person in the USA gets the same kind of health care as us but hey pay for it until they die then their family pays for it.

    The world snickers at the USA's cowboy heath care.

    THe american people have been the most foolish ripped off the planet has ever seen, as corrupt as any roman empire, their main use of information is porn.

    I have no problem with Canadian health care, it has ALWAYS worked for me, have I ever got a red carpet rolled out ? No, but I have always had caring nurses and rights to care.

    The American system is all about greed – the freaking advertise anti depressants you don't need, thats sick and thats sad.

    Lets stay with the rest of the free world Canada and do our best with private health care, the gree dy rich fat cats can fly to the states and pay for it, but they still have to pay their taxes here. Don't like it ? Move south.

    • Yes, by all means, watch Sicko, as it is totally accurate and not at all bised.

      Our insurance is not cheap but we also make a point of setting funds aside to pay for it. It is a priority. A lot of people I know here in the U.S. simply think insurance is too expensive (and without tort reform and the like it will continue to be a problem) and decide not to purchase health care at all. They gamble. Then they complain about not having accessible health care at all when there is a problem. They think they are owed health care and they shouldn't have to pay ANYTHING. That's part of the problem.

      Just as I'm certain Canadian's are tired of American's using their healthcare system to bolster claims of American superiority, I'm tired of Canadians making sweeping generalizations about America to bolster theirs. We're different countries with different systems.

      • Lynn, I'm Canadian. The older I get the more libertarian I get, and I can appreciate the argument that healthcare is not a right. If I was starting a new society from day one, I would use a free market system. The problem is, just like most other sectors of the US economy, the health care sector is stacked about 99% in favour of the ultra-wealthy. The endless, financially limitless lobbying of government by HMOs and insurance companies has led to a completely unethical arrangement that places profit much to far above anything else. They collude to drive prices up and coverage down, and by no means represent a reasonable representation of a free market system. Canadians have private auto and home insurance, and it is for a reasonable cost (e.g. I have my home and two vehicles insured for less than $2000 a year). There is no good reason for annual health insurance premiums to be 10 times that amount.

  21. I don’t have any problems with what Danny Williams did. I don’t think he is being hypocritical about Canada’s health care. Why? Well, as the premier would anyone want him to kill health care or say it is miserable and then expect the populace to use it? No, of course not. So he talks up health care, says it needs more money, says it is great, says it is needed because those that can’t afford to fly to another facility would be out of luck if there was no provincial health care. He works all out for getting health care improved and having funding available for it.

    OK, so he’s got money and he chooses to go somewhere else to get health care. Can every person in the province make that same choice? No. That means there is a need for good funded provincial health care and like a Premier that wants things for the people of his province he goes after those that fund health care and makes them know he expects more for the people in his province. I think that’s great and that is expected of a provincial premier!

    If I had money I would want to go to an exotic local for health care. But I’m not wealthy so I am even more greatful that my government is fighting for me to have health care at home that I can afford!

  22. We already have a two-tier system. If you have the dough, you can go anywhere for treatment. Then there are the middle income folks who thinks that a two-tier system in Canada will improve access for them at the expense of others. If a private system exist, many in the middle income will have to give up lots of their disposable income for it. Average insurance premium to cover a family in the US in 2009 is US$13,500. Then there are the co-pays and deductible. Private health care do not come cheap. And probably, after one major claim, you become an untouchable to the insurance companies. So, you go back to the public system. A long term solution is to work to improve the public system, not weaken it further with a private system that will bid away scarce resources. The beneficiaries of a private system are the service providers and insurance companies – not the patient.

  23. All it says is that if you are rich you can troll the world for the best care millions can buy. Williams did that, it was his money, he earned it, he can do what he wishes, God bless him. Fortunately you do not have to be a millionaire to afford health care in Canada. The Canadian system has always worked wonderfully for me and mine, including the birth of my two children, various operations for both my parents who lived well into their 80's. It also provided incredible care for my father-in-law, which included two major heart surgeries. He's a retired steel worker(how are retired and out of work steel workers doing in the States). None of us are rich, I was self empolyed for years, if we were stateside we would all be dead or bankrupt. Take your "wonderful" American greedcare and shove it. Cheers.

  24. I've, unfortunately, been one of those people who has had to take advantage of our medical system. No, its not perfect, none are. I've had to undergo surgery and chemo twice over a 7 year period. Once I was diagnosed with Stage IV I was operated on within a week and had chemo as soon as I was fit enough to undergo it. The treatment I rec'd was impeccable and speady. My onc. recently got approval for a PET/CT scan as she wanted to verify something. I got the scan within 2 weeks. Sure, there are many with non-threating life issues who have to wait for scarce resource and beds. But, I belong to a group based in the US, with members throughout the world, and from poster comments, I have received as good as, if not better, treatment than most on this group.

    I'm old enough to remember what it was like before Medicare came in. As one of 6 children, I'll take our present system any day. At least a family doesn't go bankrupt.

  25. As long as the wealthy and powerful can buy or elbow their way to the head of the health care line in Canada or elsewhere, they will have less incentive to shorten the line here. This is the reason why we should never have an "official" two tier health care system in Canada and also why the partial two tier system, that unofficially exists here now, should be eliminated. Only then will Williams and the many others like him really commit themselves to building a better health care system for all Canadians.

    • But you miss the point. Danny Williams did not push himself to the head of any line in Canada. He went outside the country to get Rolls Royce healthcare at his own expense. He is a self made millionaire, it's his money he can do as he wishes with it. He does not even collect his salary as Premier. All he did in reality was free up an operating room in Canada for the rest of we non-millionaire types. Cheers

  26. Canadians should not give up any sleep for the new crop of critics the Danny Williams case is going to produce. If Americans want to have an honest discussion about hospital care, fine, lets go. But truth is they don't because most, not all, are clueless and the pop-news isn't going to help them. They need to put some things on the table.

    Americans already have a socialized tax funded system- if you're lucky enough to work for the government or public agency. From senator to janitor, they're covered, courtesy of joe blow with a hoe. Any surprise the politicians won't talk about it?

    Health and insurance are not compatible. A health maintenance system can be funded but not insured. People are not standard commodities, some are born healthier than others. And we all get old and we're all going to get sick at some point- it's a certainty. Depending on the odds, insurance principles and pricing can only be applied to events that may or may not happen. Strictly speaking, if you left it up to the free market then only the healthiest people could buy insurance and even they could expect to be cut loose at some point after they get seriously ill. An insurance plan of any sort seeks to maximize premiums, minimize payouts and minimize risks. That's simply the nature of the beast.

    Americans have the best medical R&D and product development by far. They have one of the most inefficient health services delivery systems. The two are not connected. If the delivery of services changes tomorrow, are the big medical technology companies going to stop marketing their products around the world to the detriment of their stakeholders?

    Does anyone think American manufacturers are net beneficiaries of the expense of having to buy health insurance for workers? They avoid all that (and obviously other things) by simply moving plants offshore. And for the average worker and family it all comes down to being employed. Health is just another group plan that can disappear anytime.

  27. The article didn't even mention the Canada Health Act once, which limits queue-jumping to the very rich, instead of allowing middle-class Canadians to be free to spend extra on their health if they choose. It is the Canada Health Act, which resulted from the Federal government choosing to abandon proper support of Canada's public health system, and not any preference on the part of most Canadains for the U.S. model over our own, that has led to the intense debate.

  28. I don't care if Danny Williams went to the US for heart surgery, or to be treated for a social disease. Strictly his business.

  29. I have lived in England for over 40 years and I believe that my father, who had his first heart attack at 51and is still alive at 91, would not be still with us if it were not for the good care he has received in Canada, especially in Saskatchewan. In particular the triple bypass he received at aged 74 he would have had to wait for much longer in England. I actually booked a flight over when he told me he had to the have the operation and you certainly couldn't do that here. Part of the problem here, of course, is that we have a much higher population, and therefore much greater demand.

  30. Silly people. Doctor's aren't employed by the government. Ultrasound clinics are not all publicly run. Those two services and many others are privately delivered and publicly paid. To echo the comments of many others, we have public health insurance, and thank goodness for that. I am in favour of NOT mortgaging my house to save the life of myself or my family members. All of the talk of quality and wait times quickly turns into a shell game used by private interests to lead us down the garden path. To say that either system is superior to the other is an over-simplified argument. The bottom line is that we either pay for our health care through taxes or insurance… the latter option just ends up costing more. My vote is to stay with our current, imperfect system.

  31. Our system here in Canada has worked well for me so far. But, I can show you three people I knew personally who died while on the waiting list for Bypass Surgery over the last 21 years. If I was Danny Williams I am sure I would have done the same thing. Our Health Care System is good, but I think we all know it needs fixing in many areas!

    • Don't tell about how good the health care system is in Canada. I used to live in US where I had a health insurance which covered any treatment in any hospital in the USA. I moved back to Canada and two months ago I was brought to the Edmonton UNiversity Hospital by an ambulance with symptoms of stoke and then I was left for 4 hours sitting in a waiting room, during that time my whole left side was paralized but I couldn't even complain because there was no one there. In the hospital I was told that my stroke was a hart defect related: I have been waiting to see a cardiologist for the last two months. For me moving back to Canada was the worst thing I have ever done which may cost me my life.

  32. This story tells us more about Danny Williams than about Canadian Health care.

    I have no respect whatsoever for the man.

  33. Danny Williams finally breaks his silence on his medical procedure today and admits, as we all suspected, that it was a simple matter of a wealthy individual deciding he can use his money to get the health care he decides is best for him. That's his right. Unfortunately, unless you have the money to head to the states, that is a right that is denied to each and every Canadian who is forced to live within Canada's compulsory Stalinist health care system. We do not have to sacrifice universal health care coverage for the ability of Canadians to access private health care in Canada, instead of spending those dollars stateside. A private health care system should be permitted to operate parallel to the public system. Those who want to spend some extra money to get their families what they feel is better health care should be permitted to do so. Those who don't can access the public system. It's no different than public vs. private education. As it now stands, the wealthy have a two-tier health care system while the middle class are condemned to wallow in the mediocrity of the public system.

  34. Woulden't spending your time increasing the amount of residency seats in the hospital and medical school spots in universities be more efficient? If our porlbem is simply shortage, why not fix it instead of helping people run around it?

  35. I am with you Brockvillian and I don't care what this guy does with his money or his time as long as he is not speaking for working class Canadians. He has no place in office get him out. Let him go to the South of France and spend his time with the elite who are above the masses. Who does he think he represents?

  36. Two months ago I had a stroke at the age of 43 and was told by a nurse practittioner who discharged me from the hospital that it was hart defect related. I have been waiting since then to see a cardiologist at the Mazankowski institute in Edmonton.

  37. adequate Treatment for Canada's failing health system firstly is criminal prosecution and jail for the bad doctors, bad nurses for failing to help the sick people adequately and having enforced, Real management, supervision of doctors, nurses, medical and hospital workers. It is still a criminal act now for any doctor, nurse, hospital administrators, medical supervisor not to provide medical care to any seniors. How many have been prosecuted for this in the last year? All Canadians are not getting value for their tax money placed in the health-care system and the health-care system needs to be “massively transformed,” as the underlying principles of the Canada Health Act ” which include universality and accessibility ” are not being met since they are not enforced by the federal or provincial governments. ”Our system of publicly funded health care is founded on the promise that all Canadians will receive needed medical care when and where they need it. Far too often the promise falls short,” Especially with its shortcomings, the present system will not be able to meet future needs. http://thenonconformer.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/t

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