Monday, September 03, 2007

Canadian Medicine is Sick: MRI? Go to the Back of the 4 Mo. Line in Ontario, Even With Brain Tumor

First Lesson of Economics: We live in a universe of scarcity, and scare goods must be rationed efficiently.

First lesson of Politics and Canadian Medicine: Ignore the first lesson economics.

According to the first lesson of economics, scare goods MUST be rationed somehow. The most efficient way to ration scarce goods is with money - as crude as it sounds, it works, and in some cases it even saves lives, as this post illustrates (keep reading). The alternative is to ration scarce goods with time, e.g. waiting in line to buy "cheap goods" in the Soviet Union, or waiting in line to buy "cheap gas" during the 1970s in the U.S. under price controls. When it comes to critical health care, some people will die waiting in line when time is used to ration service.

For example: how to ration MRIs? In Canada, MRIs are "free," so the scarce service must be rationed by waiting in line (time), with waits from 4.5 to 6.5 months in some Canadian provinces like Ontario and Newfoundland (see chart above, click to enlarge). In the U.S. we ration MRIs with money, and there really are no documented waiting times for American - do a Google search for "MRI waiting times in the U.S." and you'll find nothing. Just like there are really no waiting times to have your oil changed or brakes fixed, scarce services which are rationed with money.

Exhibit A: I had my first MRI last week in the Flint, Michigan area because of prolonged neck and shoulder pain. From the time I left my initial appointment at my doctor's office to my scheduled MRI appointment, it was only 24 hours, i.e. I was able to schedule an MRI the very next day! When I asked if that was typical, the answer was yes, many MRIs can be scheduled within 24 hours, and certainly within a week.

My case was fairly routine and I was still able to get an MRI within 24 hours in the U.S. Compare that to the experience of Canadian citizen Lindsay McCreith, who was told in 2006 that he probably had a brain tumor. His case was an emergency and he needed an MRI fast, but the wait time for a "free" MRI was 4.5 months in Ontario, and it's illegal to purchase a private MRI in Ontario. So he was told to get to the end of the MRI line with his suspected brain tumor and wait 135 days for his free MRI.

What to do? Lindsay contacted Timely Medical in Vancouver, a three-year old private medical broker in Canada, which got him an MRI the next day across the border in Buffalo, NY. Result? As suspected, he did indeed have a brain tumor the size of a golf ball. McCreith then was able to schedule brain surgery within a week in the U.S., surgery that would have taken eight months in Canada -- if Lindsay had still been alive.

View a video clip here of Lindsay McCreith's ordeal with Canadian medicine, as he and his wife explain how U.S. medical care probably saved his life.

Read a recent commentary "Uh-Oh Canada," which inspired this post, along with my personal experience about my first MRI in the U.S.

9 Comments:

At 9/03/2007 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other factor in rationing by money is that this is the way advances are funded. Early adopters in all fields pay more. This is not a bug, it's a feature. The early adopters fund the advances that eventually reach a wider range of people with lesser means as development costs are worked off and efficiencies improve.

That is how MRI came to exist in the first place. That's how it came to be Made in America.

 
At 9/03/2007 9:35 PM, Blogger Adventures In Money Making said...

My wife was in an accident and they were scared of internal injuries. She waited 20 mins to get an MRI.

Of course, the cost of 3 hrs worth of xrays, MRIs and having 3 doctors looking at her was $27,000 but if she had any life threatening injuries they would've caught it.

and now we have some clowns who want to introduce Universal Health Care in the US. fricking morons!

 
At 9/03/2007 11:36 PM, Anonymous Sudha Shenoy said...

Even Britain -- the home of the NHS -- allows private health-care. The Canadians are more Catholic than the Pope.

 
At 9/04/2007 1:23 PM, Blogger PresterJohn said...

"First Lesson of Economics: We live in a universe of scarcity, and scare goods must be rationed efficiently."
- Da Professor

And the First Law of Reality is economies are totally arbitrary created systems determining who gets what when .... often manufacturing scarcity by the elite for political purposes. Just ask the Irish or Indians under English occupation. Or working Americans under the occupation of cartel capitalism.

 
At 9/04/2007 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While getting an MRI in Canada may take longer than here in the U.S. one must ask why Canada has a higher 5 year survival rate for Cancer and why Canadians live longer than we do.

http://www.reason.com/blog/show/122091.html

http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/82-226-XIE/2006001/t158_en.htm?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

 
At 9/10/2007 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"one must ask why Canada has a higher 5 year survival rate for Cancer and why Canadians live longer than we do."

Checking your links didn't reveal anything of the sort for 5 year cancer survival rates - it looks like the U.S. is on top. As far as the life expectancy argument, this is a canard that is rapidly being exposed. Since when is life expectancy solely the result of health care systems? Other factors, such as auto accidents and murders, affect these numbers.

 
At 9/19/2007 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"one must ask why Canada has a higher 5 year survival rate for Cancer and why Canadians live longer than we do."

Maybe because they have fewer McDonalds than we do?

 
At 4/19/2008 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Canadians want their health care system to be like in Cuba, they don't even have MRI machines in cuba.

 
At 9/21/2009 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually they do have MRI machines in Cuba. I had one just done with a waiting time of a few hours and price of $0. If you do have an emergency, you do not have to wait in line. If you don't, then you do have to wait in line.
If you want to pay for it, you can also do so. It costs about $300.

 

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