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Waiting: The New Word in Government-Run Health Care


Canadians can wait up to 17 weeks before receiving medical treatment. That might be in store for Americans under Obamacare.

Feature Photo Credit: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

It was a few months ago that my wife said she was calling to get me a doctor’s appointment. I’d experienced a few health changes over the past year, but just hadn't gone to see my doctor. So in early July, she said she would call to set up an appointment for a full physical.

I still haven’t seen the doctor. But not because I refused to go. My appointment isn’t until March.

Welcome to your future, America.

Proponents of Obamacare have long argued that the United States was the only industrialized country without universal healthcare. Soon, Americans can join the rest of the world in waiting months to see a doctor.

I don’t blame my family doctor...well not too much. He does the best he can inside the socialized medical system that we have here in Canada. Rationing care is simply how socialized healthcare systems contain costs, and although Obamacare is not a pure socialized system, rationing will likely come between you and your doctor very soon.

The Fraser Institute in Vancouver has been monitoring Canada’s health wait times for 22 years, their latest survey released in December 2012 should scare Americans about what lays in store. The average wait time for Canadians to see a specialist after getting a referral from their family doctor was 8.5 weeks. The average time from the specialist appointment to treatment was a further 9.3 weeks.

Taken together this means that from seeing their general physician until treatment, Canadians waited an average of 17 weeks.

Supporters of Canada’s socialized healthcare system love to ignore the annual Fraser report as the work of a free-market think-tank. They can’t do that with another report that is just as damning.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released a report earlier this year showing Canadians waited far longer than Americans for elective surgery. In fact, Canada was dead last in almost every category when it comes to wait times.

Some Americans may not have to wait that long for the doctor to be able to see them, it’s already happening in California. The Los Angeles Times points out that rationing is being used by insurers which are being forced to provide more to policyholders while also being pressured to keep costs low.

“To hold down premiums, major insurers in California have sharply limited the number of doctors and hospitals available to patients in the state's new health insurance market opening Oct. 1,” the Times reported last month.

Even Howard Dean, the former Democratic presidential hopeful and DNC Chair, wrote in the pages of the Wall Street Journal that rationing care was the downfall of the Affordable Care Act. Dean, generally a supporter of Obamacare, said the Independent Payment Advisory Board was an attempt to ration care by setting the prices too low for doctors to bother performing certain procedures or too high in the case of drugs so that they will not be covered.

The former Vermont governor said this kind of system has been tried before and it has failed.

“There does have to be control of costs in our health-care system. However, rate setting—the essential mechanism of the IPAB—has a 40-year track record of failure. What ends up happening in these schemes (which many states including my home state of Vermont have implemented with virtually no long-term effect on costs) is that patients and physicians get aggravated because bureaucrats in either the private or public sector are making medical decisions without knowing the patients.”

Dean argues that the IPAB won’t reduce costs, it will only make health care more bureaucratic.

He’s right.

As a governor that ushered in a program to extend health care to all children and pregnant women in his state, Dean has some experience with near-universal healthcare. He also hails from a border state and was quite familiar with the good and bad of the Canadian health system.

Americans share plenty in common with their Canadian neighbors from the border, to weather, a common language and a love of football. Soon we can add waiting to see the doctor to that list.

Feature Photo Credit: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

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