- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2010

President Obama and congressional Democrats are ramping up efforts to ram through a government takeover of the health care system. The vast majority of Americans are opposed to this bureaucratic power grab because they know government will do what it always does, which is increase cost while lowering efficiency and service. In case there’s any doubt, all you have to do is look to our neighbor to the north for tales of doom and gloom that come with nationalized health care.

Canada provides a clear warning about government involvement in health care as even its most prominent citizens come to America for important procedures. Just last month, Danny Williams, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, crossed the border to have a heart valve replaced in the United States.

Canadian doctors told Mr. Williams in December that his heart valve problems had become severe and that he needed immediate care or risked heart failure. He had two reasons for coming to the Land of the Free. One reason is the ability to choose the best procedure and the choice of the best doctors. Canadian doctors are still using an older heart surgery technique that requires breaking bones to reach the heart. The top-notch cardiac surgeon the premier picked in Florida had performed more than 8,000 open-heart surgeries and used a procedure that reaches the heart through a small incision under the arm, without breaking any ribs. This surgical procedure also requires much less time to recuperate.

The second reason he came here is something that Canadians appreciate all too well - the long wait times they face to get surgery in Canada. Mr. Williams, despite his dire health problem, explained: “I would’ve been criticized if I had stayed in Canada and had been perceived as jumping a line or a wait list.” Even though 42 percent of Canadians said in a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll that they are willing to travel to another country for medical care, a Canadian politician still risks a backlash for coming to America for health care. People are rightly testy when a horrible system is thrust on the populace that lawmakers won’t use themselves.

Fortunately, at least thus far, Americans haven’t had to deal with rationed or delayed health care. The notion of a well-known politician being able to jump the queue for treatment is foreign to us and never discussed simply because there aren’t those kinds of problems getting treatment in our country. The case of Mr. Williams should remind Americans that our system generally works extremely well in delivering fast, excellent care. Unfortunately, if Mr. Obama is successful, America will be moving in the direction of Canada, with even more government funding of and intervention in health care.

The Canadian controversy played out against the backdrop of the health care debate raging in Washington. The Democratic Senate health care bill and Mr. Obama’s versionpaid for about $500 billion of the cost of its proposals with cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and other government health care programs. These cuts are on top of the fact that Medicare and Medicaid already reimburse hospitals and doctors less than their costs, which means private patients have to be charged more to make up those losses. It’s frustrating to try to understand how Democrats can simultaneously cut large amounts of money out of government health care, drive up the cost of private care and not understand these factors lead to rationing.

Unlike Canadians now, who can come here, Americans won’t be able to cross any border for better care if the Democrats nationalize our health system. Instead, we can look forward to scandals over powerful politicians using their clout to jump the queues, where the rest of us are waiting, miserably, for care.

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