The ghost of Tommy Douglas

Video of Ujjal Dosanjh’s second appearance on CNN doesn’t yet seem available, but CNN has posted the transcript of its segment, Dosanjh and Wyoming Senator John Barrasso back-to-back in pseudo debate moderated by the insistent Rick Sanchez.

Full exchange after the jump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I had a friend of mine in Florida who called up recently and said he had just lost a friend of his in Canada because the government decided he was too old for a certain kind of procedure, and, apparently, he didn’t have the money or the ability to get down to the United States for quality health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Of course, I asked Senator McConnell to join me and clear up maybe what he had said, but yesterday he was voting and wasn’t able to join us.

But we did have the former Canadian health minister, Ujjal Dosnajh, to answer that same charge, just to be fair, which he did by calling what the senator said, quote, “absolutely false.” But we didn’t want to leave the story there because we think it should continue because this is important to all of us.

So joining us now is Republican senator John Barrasso, who’s also a doctor.

Senator, thanks for being with us, sir.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Thank you very much, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Hey, you know, maybe — you know, people misspeak or they hear something that maybe they shouldn’t repeat but it seemed like Senator McConnell said something that obviously was refuted by Canadian officials.

You don’t believe that Canada doesn’t treat people according to age, do you?

BARRASSO: Well, I know as an orthopedic surgeon practicing in Casper, Wyoming, I took care of people who had orthopedic problems, who lived in Canada, who came to the United States because they didn’t want to wait so long for their care in Canada.

And they came to me because they had the means to pay for that care. So that’s not at all unusual for people from Canada who get tired of waiting in lengthy lines to come to the United States.

SANCHEZ: Yes, yes, but that’s not the question I asked, sir, with all due respect. The charge was that in Canada, if you’re a certain age, you don’t get treated.

BARRASSO: I don’t know that aspect of it. What I do know, though…

SANCHEZ: OK.

BARRASSO: … is people come to the United States for care. I know in Calgary last year, they decided to pay for 2,000 fewer cataract operations. Not because of need, but because of financial squeeze so that if you were waiting to get a cataract operation, the line just got a lot longer for you.

And now they only do it if you’re almost blind, not just if you’re having trouble seeing, but if you’re almost blind. Had nothing to do with age, but it sure had to do with how much care they’re willing to pay for in Canada and making people wait for necessary care.

SANCHEZ: Well, what do you say to those who say I live in the United States and I have to travel to Canada to get good medical treatment or any medical treatment because maybe I’m not insured in the United States and over there they treat everyone?

BARRASSO: Well, I would like to visit with some of those people because right now it’s a — you know, a ten-week wait for an MRI or CAT scan in Canada. It’s something you can get done the same week here in the United States. Our care is the place that people come to — they come to the United States because our care is so good here.

We need health care reform, though, Rick. I mean if you cut all the way through it, we need reform. We need people to understand we need reform on both sides of the aisle here. We need to find ways to save money in the system and to cover more people. We absolutely need health care reform.

SANCHEZ: Well, what …

BARRASSO: The bills we’re looking at now I don’t think deliver the kind of reform that the American people want.

SANCHEZ: Well, help us out, man, what kind of — Senator, Doctor, what kind of reform do we need? I mean, I just heard you say that we’ve got a great system, but then you’re also saying we need reform. How do you reconcile those two?

BARRASSO: I think we have a system better than any place else in the world. We need reform. There’s about a third of all the money spent in this country on health care that to me doesn’t really go to help somebody get better. A lot of it is related to, you know, junk lawsuits and doctors doing defensive medicine, lots of x-rays, lots of studies that are done for that reason.

We need to have people have an opportunity to buy health insurance across state lines. We need a chance for people who buy their own insurance and don’t get it to work to have the same tax breaks, the big companies get. We need to give incentives for people who actually lose weight and do those sorts of things.

SANCHEZ: Yes, preventative.

BARRASSO: Not just the kind of things in the Kennedy bill where it going to put money for sidewalks and jungle gyms and streetlights. It’s like the old midnight basketball.

SANCHEZ: But, again, with all due respect, you just did it again. You just said we have the best system in the world.

BARRASSO: But it needs improvement.

SANCHEZ: Do — I mean, is that just a raw — I mean, you know, I can wrap a flag around myself, too, and say things, but let’s talk seriously here.

BARRASSO: Sure.

SANCHEZ: Do we have the best system in the world?

BARRASSO: Well, I believe we do in terms of the newest technology, the best approaches to take care of people.

SANCHEZ: OK, so we have…

BARRASSO: But we have a lot of areas to improve.

SANCHEZ: All right. So you’re saying in certain areas we have the best system in the world. We have 47 million people who have no health care in this country. Surely that needs to be fixed.

BARRASSO: We have 47 million people who don’t have insurance. When they show up in any emergency room in the United States…

SANCHEZ: That’s true.

BARRASSO: … which is the worst place to get care in terms of efficiency and cost savings, everyone gets cared for. Now of those 47 million, 10 million of them, you know, make over $75,000 a year. Another 10 million of them are qualified for either children’s health or Medicaid or Medicare, but haven’t signed up yet.

Another 10 million are not legal citizens of the United States and you have a lot of young people like my kids who think they’re bulletproof and don’t need the insurance and they’re between the ages of 18 and 30.

There are still people that need care. There are ways to help them. But we still need to do more. Our system needs reform. But I don’t see this very big, very expensive bill — I mean you look at the bill that — and it’s not just me, the Mayo Clinic came out and said, this health care bill, this health care bill is going to make matters worse for the citizens of our country.

SANCHEZ: So you…

BARRASSO: That’s what the Mayo Clinic had to say.

SANCHEZ: But did you…

BARRASSO: That’s what the Mayo Clinic said.

SANCHEZ: By the way, Mayo Clinic, rah, rah, I went to school at the University of Minnesota, big — proud of it. Did you hear what Jim DeMint said? Are you worried that some of the folks on your side are politicizing this too much when they say — do we have that? Can we put that up?

Put that up if we possibly — there it is. “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo, it will break him.” The problem with that comment is when Americans hear that, they say, I mean, because you’re a sober guy who is — and a doctor who’s taking us through what’s good, what’s bad and what we needed changed, that sounds like a political hack statement that’s being made just to hurt the other guy without any facts.

BARRASSO: Well, he can speak for himself. We need health care reform in this country. We absolutely do. There are a number of suggestions…

SANCHEZ: But will you agree that that kind of thing doesn’t help the argument? I mean making a statement like that? We just got to get Obama whether it’s this or anything else?

BARRASSO: That doesn’t help any person who has a health care problem, health care is very personal and that doesn’t help.

SANCHEZ: You know what, you’re a good guy. I really enjoyed talking to you, Senator. We’ll do this again. We can learn a lot from a guy like you. We appreciate it.

BARRASSO: Thanks, Rick.

SANCHEZ: All right.

Let’s bring Ujjal Dosnajh into the conversation. He’s a member of the Canadian parliament. He’s a former health minister there in Canada.

There’s something he said that I just want to fact check with you if I possibly can or get your perspective on. He said there is a 10-week wait there and I think he said — was it MRIs? It was an MRI, wasn’t it? And then he’s mentioned something about cataracts surgery as well.

UJJAL DOSNAJH, FORMER CANADIAN HEALTH MINISTER: Well, he…

SANCHEZ: 2,000 fewer people getting cataracts surgery there. Thanks, Angie (INAUDIBLE) in my ear sharing that information with me. Is he right? Is that true? Do you have a problem in Canada with this?

DOSNAJH: Well, look, I believe there are wait times for many things including knee surgery, or MRIs. But if you have excruciating pain and people believe that you may be in danger of losing a limb or life, you go to the front of the line.

I told you, I’ve been in this country since 1968, I got married here, I have three young — three sons, three grandchildren, I have never had to pay one red cent and no one has ever gone untreated. The fact is that people like Senator Barrasso talk about exceptions. You know what the United States does with its system…

SANCHEZ: But let me press you the same way I pressed him.

DOSNAJH: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Is it not true that there are long delays, long waits for certain procedures in Canada? Is that not true?

DOSNAJH: It is true. There are sometimes undue delays in certain procedures that may not be life threatening — for conditions which might not be life threatening. That’s true. But the fact is that, you know, you have situations where people go to the United States because they can spend $100,000 on a non-life threatening cyst and go to Mayo Clinic.

How many other Canadians can afford $150,000 to go to Mayo Clinic to deal with a non-threatening cyst? I think that that’s the kind of stuff that we need to actually — those are urban legends.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

DOSNAJH: The fact is that, in Canada, we get some of the best care in the world. We have some of the best doctors in the world. It is not the government that decides what procedures a particular patient should have. It is the doctors that decide. It is not the HMO that decides based on whether or not it’s going to cost them too much.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

DOSNAJH: It is the medical doctor that’s looking after you decides what needs to be done and that’s what happens.

SANCHEZ: I appreciate your honesty on this. I really do. And I appreciate your making yourself available for so many Americans who really want, you know, fair and honest answers about this.

And it sounds, after talking to both of you, two certainly competent, intelligent men who know this field, that there are some things about your system that may be we need and there are some things about our system that maybe you need, maybe something in the middle would be what Americans should be able to come up with.

And let’s just hope that our lawmakers take us in that direction. We’ll keep reaching out to you, Ujjal, if you keep taking our phone calls.

DOSNAJH: Absolutely, thank you.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, sir.




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The ghost of Tommy Douglas

  1. Good answers from Dosanjh, and true.

    I've never known anyone to wait for an emergency, wait for something life threatening, etc. I've waited 10 weeks for an MRI myself, but only after it was determined by a family doctor and a specialist that my condition wasn't dangerous. Meanwhile, when a family member was injured – not even terribly – in a car accident, they received an MRI that same day.

  2. I had to wait only four days for a non-emergency MRI.
    Not bad at all.
    One of the perks of living in a city with teaching hospitals.

    • I only had to wait 24 hours for my non-emergency MRI. True story.

      • No real surprise, frogs fit in the smaller units.

  3. My wait time to start dislysis? About as long as it took me to take the course to learn how to do it myself. Two days.

    My wait in an emergency room to fix a broken leg? Six hours. Yeah, it hurt, but not "put me ahead of the guy with a heart attack" kind of hurt. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

    • Exactly. I have had a couple different chronic conditions at different points in my life that bump my likelihood of a trip to the emerg. my waits have last anywhere from like 10 minutes to 5.5 hours depending on where and when. But, never have I felt like i didn't get good care and that I wasn't going to be able to wait it out. Could ER wait times be faster? undoubtedly. Beyond testing my and other's patience is a big deal? nope.

  4. Liberals sure do talk a good line on public health care when they aren't busy undermining it from the government benches.

    For his part, Tommy Douglas never thought much of turncoats. Ask Hazen Argue.

  5. I hate to say it, but neither Canada nor the States have the best healthcare systems in the world. American healthcare costs the highest % of GDP in the OECD, if I remember correctly, and healthcare is becoming a budgetary vacuum for Canadian provinces, where more and more money can be poured without significantly improving results. We both have a lot to learn from more innovative countries. Our laurels are hurting us.

  6. Here in Ottawa people would kill for a 10 week wait for an MRI. Waiting list here at one point was over a year.

    Current wait time at the Ottawa Hospital for an MRI: 288 days. Current Ontario average: 110 days. Target wait time is 28 days.

    All numbers from the Ontario health care wait times web site.

    • I live in Ottawa and I only had to wait a week from my non-emergency MRI.

  7. these urban legends refuse to die.
    i had a big argument with several people down in the US during the primaries about Health Care – and one woman – who to that point I had a high regard for – autistic herself with two autistic kids – and doing a great job for her – and she told me she had heard this thing about people over 75 being refused treatment – and I got George Smitherman's staff to refute this – but she still wouldn't believe…crazy! Sick!

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