Danny Williams, the Premier of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador announced this morning that he is heading to the U.S. for heart surgery. The right wing, which often claims that Democrats wish to secretly transform America’s health care into a Canadian single-payer system, pounced on the news as proof that Canada’s system does not work. “Where will all our elitist overlords go,” American Thinkers’ Wesley Clark wrote about William’s trip to the U.S., when we “replace our best-in-the-world medical care system with a technologically second-rate and rationed system like Canada’s[?].”
Anti-health reform group Patients First — a project of Americans For Prosperity — cited Williams’ trip as a reason to oppose health care reform:
For the last nine months, we’ve fought against a government takeover of our health care not only because of its high cost but also its debilitating effect on the quality and accessibility of care to patients. Yesterday, we were given a reminder from fifty-nine-year-old Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams that this is the case in Canada where they have a single payer, government-run health care system…. The Premier’s upcoming trip underscores the brilliance of our system—something that hasn’t been emphasized enough lately. We have state-of-the-art facilities run by trained and caring professionals who quickly diagnose and treat health problems.
Of course, there is little evidence to suggest that Williams couldn’t have received the same heart treatment in Canada. Deputy premier Kathy Dunderdale said that Williams “has gone to a renowned expert in the procedure that he needs to have done,” but did not reveal if he exhausted all of his options in Canada. Canadian health experts, meanwhile are insisting that “when it comes to heart procedures, there’s nothing you can get in the U.S. that you can’t get here. You just have to wait a bit longer, and the accommodations aren’t as nice.” The Cardiac Care Network of Ontario “classifies heart patients for care on three bases: ‘emergent – you’re done right away,’ ‘urgent – you’re done in a few days’ or ‘elective – you may have to wait for a while, because you’re not at any significant risk.’” There is “no question” Williams could have chosen to remain in Canada, Dr. Wilbert Keon, a heart surgery pioneer in Ottawa and a Conservative senator, said.
Williams — a former lawyer and wealthy businessman — is “known as Danny Millions.” To Canadians, Williams’ trip suggests that “if you have money, you can forgo the hassles of public health care and pay for quicker service south of the border,” but it also underscores the high cost of American health care. “Every year, thousands of Americans undergo surgery in other countries” where they can receive the same care “at half the price.” “In 2007, an estimated 750,000 Americans traveled abroad for medical care; this number is anticipated to increase to six million by 2010″ — far outpacing the number of Canadians coming into the United States for medical treatment.
Williams traveled to America to receive the best care, so why are conservatives using his visit as an argument for opposing reform and denying millions of uninsured Americans access to “state-of-the-art facilities” where “trained and caring professionals” can “quickly diagnose and treat health problems”?