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The truth about Canadian Health Care

by alec on September 11, 2009

This morning I’ve been reflecting on the debate about health care that’s happening south of the border.  Like many Canadians I’ve been in disbelief watching the rhetoric escalate.  The outright lies, and Orwellian double-speak by special interest groups in the US have me wondering how my American friends will ever achieve a resolution.

What caused this reflection?  It has been a week since my last posting, and that has partly been due to an experience with our health care system in Canada.

Last weekend I dropped my son off at McMaster University in Hamilton.  It’s his freshman year, so he is living in residence, and he was very much looking forward to frosh week and getting to know the other young people he would be living with.  By Monday evening however, he had developed a stomach problem.  He visited the on-Campus clinic.  The doctors there thought it might be a flu, and advised him to stay in bed, which he did all day Tuesday.

By Tuesday evening he knew it was more than a simple flu bug, as his stomach problem had escalated to extreme abdominal pain, accompanied by fever. He called McMaster Emergency Services and was taken to the emergency department at the university hospital.  We got a call from him at about 7:00 telling us he was there.

I grabbed the 9:00 PM flight to Toronto, cabbed it from Toronto to Hamilton, and was there by 11:30, by which time he had had blood work, and an ultra-sound, and the diagnosis was confirmed as appendicitis. At 1:00 AM he was prepped for surgery, and by 4:00 AM his appendix had been removed and the infection cleaned up.  The surgeon, a Dr. Kellsie, informed us that the appendix had been leaking but not yet ruptured, which made the job easier.

He spent another 36 hours in the hospital, and came home with me last night.  Today he’s walking slowly, but obviously on the mend.

For my American friends who worry about Canadian style health care, and who are enduring the rhetoric around “death boards”, and “protecting our seniors”, I offer the following observations:

  • This was a true emergency, and it was dealt with promptly.  It was just 8 hours from admission to diagnosis to the completion of surgery.
  • The quality of the care was world class. He was attended by a team of five physicians and residents following the surgery, and housed in a semi-private room on a ward with just 12 rooms.
  • The cost to my family was $0.  Not only that, it didn’t drive up insurance premiums, or have any of the other negative effects associated with privately insured health care.
  • The cost of the drugs he is taking during his recovery – two antibiotics, and pain medication, was just over $50, and I can probably get my drug plan to cover it.

I’m sure that the Canadian system isn’t perfect.  While I lived in the US I had gold-standard quality health care as a Microsoft employee, and there is nothing that I am aware of in this country that matches the best of the best in the United States.  However, for those confused or made fearful by the rhetoric being used on Capitol Hill, you need not fear “Canadian style” health care.  It’s head and shoulders above what the tens of millions of un-insured in the United States receive, and the quality is as good or better than what the average insured American receives today. I can only say that because I’ve lived in both countries and experienced both health care systems.

More to the point, however, I would ask the following of my American friends. As you listen to your leaders debate this issue, ask yourselves what three days of emergency hospitalization would cost in your country.  My recollection is that it’s probably well in excess of $30,000. Next ask yourselves whether it’s fair that families be ruined over routine, but unforeseen, medical needs.

These are questions only you can answer.

As for me, I am profoundly grateful for the incredible care that the team at McMaster hospital delivered, and the speed with which it was delivered.

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We discuss the Wall Street Journal Business Technology blog piece on whether virtual worlds have a place in business communication.

We also talked through some of the latest insanity from the entertainment industry:

Quote Unquote records is a label that provides it’s music under a creative commons license. For the last week, their website has been down, the target of an RIAA copyright complaint.  Naturally, they’re furious, but their ISP isn’t putting the site back up.

And… Blu-ray is bombing.  Because of the economic downturn, consumers simply aren’t moving to the new, and more expensive, format.

The RIAA now wants to avoid trial in Maverick v. Harper.  They’re worried, apparently, that a trial might undermine the bedrock of their copyright infringement cases, which is that “making a file available on a P2P network” constitutes infringement.

And finally we discussed the US election, and Barack Obama’s promise to appoint a CTO for the USA.

On the Calliflower Conference Call: Dan York, Jeb Brilliant, Bill Volk, Sergio Meinardi, Mark Hewitt and Phil Wolff.

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SquawkBox October 14: Election Day in Canada, plus new MacBooks

October 14, 2008

It’s election day here in Canada.  Today on the SquawkBox we talked about the impact of digital media and the web on the election campaign, both here and in the United States where they’ve got a little less than a month to go on their election. After a little bit of good-natured ribbing from my […]

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Credit crunch slams carriers

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A number of stories hit the wire yesterday about how the credit crunch is impacting carriers.  AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said Tuesday that his company is unable to sell commercial paper for terms any longer than overnight. It’s not that short-term borrowing is unreasonably expensive, Stephenson said. A shortage of buyers for the debt means […]

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Squawk Box August 28 – How communications technology is changing politics

August 28, 2008

This morning we talked about some of the stories that are emerging about the use of technology in politics. Barack Obama’s use of SMS to announce Joe Biden as his running mate, Microsoft’s deployment of a voter registration application on XBOX, and the novel ways that cellular phones are being used on the convention floor.

The other topic? Tomorrow is Skype’s 5th anniversary. How has Skype changed your world? the communications industry?

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Squawk Box August 28 – How communications technology is changing politics

August 28, 2008

This morning we talked about some of the stories that are emerging about the use of technology in politics. Barack Obama’s use of SMS to announce Joe Biden as his running mate, Microsoft’s deployment of a voter registration application on XBOX, and the novel ways that cellular phones are being used on the convention floor.

The other topic? Tomorrow is Skype’s 5th anniversary. How has Skype changed your world? the communications industry?

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mig33 targets the US with Blackberry

February 7, 2008

Most of mig33's 10 million users are from outside North America.  With their roots in south-east Asia, and their focus on mobile devices, mig33's subscriber base has come from youth in countries where the primary way to access the internet has been via mobile phone.  Today they rolled out their first products that are specifically […]

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Verizon forbearance and the FCC

December 3, 2007

There's an interesting regulatory battle going on south of the border. "Forbearance" is a provision in the 1996 Telecom Act that allows the FCC to set aside the competition rules when enforcement of the rule is not required to protect the public interest.  Incumbent's have learned how to use the forbearance provisions of the the […]

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Some VoIP applications ARE failing on Facebook!

November 20, 2007

Stuart Henshall surfaced a couple of links this morning showing that VoIP apps are failing on Facebook.  I'm not sure how iotum ended up on that list, since we're not actually a VoIP app, but you know Stuart's absolutely right and the outcome was predictable.  The vast majority of VoIP applications on Facebook are simple […]

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Clinton Would Back Martin on Trade

October 18, 2005

Bill Clinton commented last night that he doesn’t think Paul Martin has any choice on the softwood lumber issue.  We have plenty of resources in this country besides lumber.  We should be pursuing a multi-pronged strategy on trade. Global warming, for instance, affects Canada greatly.  The annual fall display of leaves in Ottawa this year was terrible — the summer […]

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