These “debates” are to serious policy discussions as a kazoo is to an orchestra. You can say a kazoo is an instrument, and you can say that these truncated thoughts are proposals, but you’ll invite smirks.

This is not a slam on Democrats. The Republican “debates” in 2016 were no better. When a stage is sardined with candidates, there is no alternative to keeping answers short. If the voters had longer attention spans, we could arrange four or five nights of less manic encounters, which would give candidates the chance to explain themselves. But since we don’t, we have unedifying and demeaning soundbite pingpong matches.

It isn’t clear that they merit the intense media interest they generate. Must Joe Biden prove he’s not too old? Must Cory Booker “have a moment” after a lackluster first debate? Maybe. Then again, Donald Trump performed abysmally in the 2016 debates. He didn’t know the issues and made excruciating errors. His great skill, if you can call it that, was in lobbing juvenile taunts at his rivals. Yet he was acclaimed the winner by the viewers.

Several candidates last week stressed that the Democratic Party is veering too far to the left, which was refreshing, if probably futile. The undertow pulling the party left is very strong. As recently as 2009, the public option in health care was considered too extreme, which is why President Barack Obama omitted it. Now, it’s the moderate position compared with “Medicare for All,” which is endorsed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, Bill de Blasio, Julian Castro and, with some reservations, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg.

As usual, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were in full outrage mode about the corporate villains who are sucking us dry. It isn’t a sign of our political maturity that the most successful politicians now are demagogues who find some target to blame — foreign competition, immigrants, greedy corporations, millionaires and billionaires. Warren claims that “giant corporations” and billionaires will foot the bill for her MFA, which rivals Trump’s claim that Mexico would pay for his wall. Sanders pointed to the nation across the river from Detroit to shame Americans about health care not being treated as a “yooman right” in this country.

This seems like a good time to review what Canada’s single-payer health care system does and doesn’t do.

It’s true that all Canadian citizens and legal residents (though not immigrants there illegally) get “free” health care, but only in the sense that you don’t get a bill after seeing a doctor or visiting a hospital. Medical care is subsidized by taxes, but the price comes in another form as well — rationing. A 2018 report from the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, found that wait times between seeing a general practitioner and a specialist average 19.8 weeks. That’s the average. There are variations among specialties. Those hoping to see an orthopedist wait an average of 39 weeks in Nova Scotia, while those seeking an oncologist wait about 3.8 weeks.

Canada has the same modern medical technology that the U.S. offers, but Canadians must wait more than a month for a CT scan, more than 10 weeks for an MRI, and almost a month for an ultrasound.

Imagine the anxiety of learning that you need an MRI to find out whether the mass in your breast is anything to worry about and then being told that the next available appointment is in 10 weeks. In addition to the psychic price, Canadians who had to wait for treatment expended an average of $1,822 out of pocket last year, due to lost wages and other costs. The Fraser Institute also calculated the value of the lost productivity of those waiting for treatment — nearly $5,600 per patient, totaling $5.8 billion nationally. Wait times to see physicians in the U.S. have been creeping up in recent years — perhaps in response to increased demand following Obamacare — but remain much shorter than Canada’s or other OECD countries with nationalized health services.

When there’s an artificial shortage of a good or service, a black market usually follows. I have heard from several Canadians that paying doctors bribes to jump the line is not uncommon. But Canada has another pressure reliever: Ninety percent of Canadians live within 90 miles of the U.S. border, and medical centers in Buffalo, Chicago, Rochester and elsewhere receive tens of thousands of Canadian patients every year.

Advocates respond that Canadians are happy with their system, and that’s fine. It’s their choice. But Americans tend not to be so docile about delays. And in any case, the Democrats’ pretense that we can provide “Medicare for All” and receive the same level of care we’ve become accustomed to is applesauce. You want the Canadian system? Fine. Just know what you’re giving up.

Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her new book is “Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense.” To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

(13) comments

veritas

Despite the skepticism of the self appointed health care experts responding herein, I choose to believe the thrust of this column as well as similar news and opinion pieces that pop up in the media from time to time. Ignoring common sense and simple arithmetic, Dems are hell bent on cramming "single payer" down the throats of all Americans. Why?

public-redux

“Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that affirms one's prior beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.”

veritas

And a wet bird never flies at night.

public-redux

You choose to believe that.

shiftless88

My sister lives in Canada and loves her health care. She has lived there for almost 50 years. She has had a knee and hip replaced. Sure, there may be some waits but you also do not go broke paying for it. Did you see the story the other day of the old couple who committed suicide because their health care bills were unaffordable?

DickD

That is not true for all Democrats, Veritas and you know it!

DickD

Medicare for all and Medicare for illegals will never be accepted in this election. Democrats need to be realistic about what citizens want.

mamlukman

Her numbers on wait time are from the most recent Fraser Institute study. The Fraser Institute is much like the Heritage Foundation--it has a definite conservative/libertarian point of view. It's NOT neutral. It has an agenda--and one of its agendas is to bring more privatization into Canadian health care.



Let's look at the Fraser Institute study a little more carefully.

1) First, only about 20% of all specialists bothered to respond. And in many provinces, NO specialists at all in certain areas responded. In Ontario, it was worse--a 15% response rate.



2) it's a survey. They ask the doctors to GUESS the wait times. They're not asked to check records to find out the facts.



3) The 20% who respond are self-selected. As with any survey, the most discontented are most apt to take the survey.



4) When the Fraser Institute began the waiting time surveys, they said this was their objective (1992): "the redirection of public attention to the role of competitive markets in providing for the well-being of Canadians." Hardly neutral.



The Canadian Institute for Health Care Information does its own surveys, which are more accurate: https://www.cihi.ca/en/wait-times-for-priority-procedures-in-canada



The Commonwealth Fund also does surveys of a number of countries so you can compare them.

gary4books

I have FEHB as a result of retiring from the FDA and would like legislation to let others join and get the same subsidy. Why not?

bnick467

Any information that comes from a "think tank" has to be taken with a grain of salt. The fact that people have to wait for testing or to see a specialist is no different in Canada than it is here. Healthcare providers in the U.S. also have rationing, but opponents of M4A ignore that fact. If my knee hurts and my PCP recommends I see an orthopedist and I call to make an appointment, I am told that the next available is about 8-10 weeks away. But if my PCP suspects I have a torn tendon and feels it is an urgent need, he will call the orthopedist and make the appointment for me, usually within a few days. Based on conversations I've had with people who have real world experience with the healthcare system there, it works the same in Canada. Same goes for mammograms, MRI's, CAT scans, and all other medical testing. It's called TRIAGE, and more urgent cases are taken first, which is the same way it works here in the U.S. The difference is, in Canada when someone needs to see a specialist, they actually GO, whereas here in the U.S., many of us have to weigh in our minds whether or not we can afford that $600 copay.

FCPS-Principal

Every year there are 40,000 more Type 1 diabetics in the great USA. That's $1000 x 40,000 x 12 = $500 million more insulin makers soak up each year from Medicare, insurers and bilked patients. In Canada, that would be $0. Maga.

DickD

Most diabetics would not be diabetic, if they followed their doctors instructions on diet and exercise. Now that is not true for type 1, but is true for type 2.

DickD

467, where do you get this from? I can see a specialist without my primary physician recommending and my co payment, for a specialist is $30, not $600.

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