What CNN Didn't Ask About Canada Health Care Rationing
On July 6, CNN’s American Morning may have positioned themselves as a fly in the White House’s public health-care ointment. In a story on Senator Mitch McConnell’s recent comments regarding Canadian national health care, CNN traveled to Canada to investigate whether this vision of long queues in health care was warranted. In investigating, however, CNN neglected to ask an important question of their own story, regarding the possible rationing of the healthcare of cancer patients.
The hospital singled out for Senator McConnell’s rhetorical wrath is Kingston General in Ontario, Canada. CNN’s Dana Bash traveled there under guise of inquiring whether McConnell’s view of Kingston was accurate.
Senator MITCH MCCONNELL: Knee replacements. Well, at Kingston General, the average wait is about 340 days.
BASH: Zelt's response, McConnell is exaggerating.
DR. DAVID ZELT, Chief-of-staff, KINGSTON GEN. HOSPITAL: Average time to get a knee replacement here is 91 days.
This may prove to be an accurate assessment. Oddly, however, this seems to be almost an afterthought in Bash’s report – choosing instead to highlight two anecdotes within Canadian health care.
Bash first interviewed Shana Holmes, a Canadian who was diagnosed with a brain tumor roughly four years ago. At the time, Bash reported, Holmes faced quite a wait for treatment:
BASH: (voice over): For Shana Holmes, simple pleasures, playing with her dog, walking in her garden, are a gift. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Told if it wasn't removed she could go blind or die.
SHANA HOLMES: I realized right after the surgery how bad my vision was.
BASH: Shana is Canadian, but for her surgery she went to the U.S. because it would have taken four to six months just to see specialists in Canada's government-run health system, the only option here.
And how much did Holmes’ surgery cost?
BASH (voice-over): Shana's bills at the Mayo Clinic where she was treated total $100,000. She borrowed from family and friends.
That, incidentally, is in addition to the higher taxes Holmes still has paid over the course of her life – for free health care.
However, not all Canadian cancer patients must wait so long for treatment. Bash then interviewed another Canadian, who was treated almost immediately for the tumor in his leg:
Despite Shana Holmes' horror story, Canadian officials insist most patients with life threatening problems are treated quickly. Doug Wright can attest to that. He has cancer, a tumor on his leg. He's got the money to get care in the U.S., but says there's no reason.
DOUG WRIGHT, CANADIAN PATIENT: I've not had to wait. I've seen, you know, some of the best specialists in the country.
That sounds quite acceptable, at first blush. However, Bash neglected to ask the question staring her starkly in the face: Of the two patients featured, whose procedure cost more? Holmes required brain surgery for a tumor that was leaning on her ocular nerve, while Wright required surgery on his leg. Both were suffering from tumors, but Wright’s may have been easier – not to mention less costly – to remove.
One wonders why the issue of cost-rationing was not addressed in Bash’s report.