Rush Limbaugh: Canadian Doctors Debate and Poll
Was Rush Limbaugh right ? 

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PRO 1

Rush Limbaugh, "Most Canadian physicians who are themselves in need of surgery, for example, scurry across the border to get it done right: the American way. They have found, through experience, that state medical care is too expensive, too slow and inefficient, and, most important, it doesn't provide adequate care for most people." (Told You So, p. 153)

 

CON 2

 "Mr. Limbaugh's claim simply isn't true," says Dr. Hugh Scully, chair of the Canadian Medical Association's Council on Healing and Finance. "The vast majority of Canadians, including physicians, receive their care here in Canada. Those few Canadians who receive health care in the U.S. most often do because they have winter homes in the States--like Arizona and Florida--and have emergent health problems there." Medical care in Canada is hardly "too expensive"; it's provided free and covered by taxes.

 

PRO 3 Rush's answer to Fair

My full quote, found in FAIR's own report, is this: "Most Canadian physicians who are themselves in need of surgery, for example, scurry across the border to get it done right; the American way. They have found, through experience, that state medical care is too expensive, too slow and inefficient, and, most important, it doesn't provide adequate care for most people." Canadian medical care is expensive, slow, and inefficient. Wrote Heritage Foundation health care policy analyst Edmund Haislmaier in a 1991 Policy Review article entitled, "Northern Discomfort: The Ills of the Canadian Health System": Canada's "health care system has been fully nationalized for the past two decades. In a 1989 cover story entitled Sick to Death,' the Canadian news magazine McLean's described [Charles] Coleman's case [who, at 63, had his coronary bypass surgery postponed 11 times and died eight days after the surgery was finally performed], as well as numerous other examples of a national health care system in crisis. Dr. Phil Gold, then-chief physician of Montreal General Hospital, complained, I'm living from hand to mouth and waiting for disaster each dayI don't know when someone will die for lack of a bed or the proper equipment." As for "most" physicians scurrying over the border, this is an obvious humorous exaggeration to be sure, but it is hardly "groundless." The Canadian media itself reports on fed-up doctors coming to the U.S. Note this headline in the London [Ontario] Free Press on June 28, 1994: "Cutbacks, Frustration, Pushing Doctors to U.S." The article states: "Frustrated by restrictions, cutbacks, and loss of respect, the number of doctors actively seeking work south of the border is on the rise -- and Americans are embracing them with open arms. I have never heard of as many doctors who have their names with recruiting agencies, or who have gone to the States to look around as I have for the past six months,' says [a member] of the London District Academy of Medicine, who has practiced in that city for 23 years." The article also stated, "In the U.S., which traditionally attracted Canadian specialists, the biggest demand now is for family physicians, says Jim Merritt, president of the Irving, Texas, based Merritt, Hawkins and Associates, one of the largest American physician recruitment firms."

W. Gifford-Jones, himself a Canadian doctor, wrote a column for The Evening Telegram (St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada) entitled, "Public's Appetite Too Ravenous for Free Medical Care.'" He stated: "Mrs. Clinton take note. Many hospital beds in Canada have closed due to a lack of government funding. Operating rooms stand idle at certain times in a desperate effort to save money. Cutbacks are evident in every hospital service. It's meant that some Canadians have become more familiar with the U.S. But they're not tourists on their way to the Grand Canyon. Rather, they've crossed the border for bypass surgery and other procedures to avoid long waiting lists in Canada. But not only patients cross the 49th parallel. Some of the best physicians and surgeons have fled south, due to inadequacies in the system. One doctor who moved to Buffalo, N.Y., told me, Now I'm considered part of the solution. In Canada I was considered part of the problem.'" Furthermore, scores of wealthy and well-connected Canadians come to the United States for surgery because they cannot get timely, quality service in Canada's own nationalized health care system. In 1993, Joanna Miyake and Michael Walker of the Frasier Institute, a Vancouver, Canada-based think tank, published a 1993 study entitled, "Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada." They wrote: "More people in Canada will die this year of cardiovascular disease than of any other single disease. Because cardiovascular disease is a degenerative process and the decay of the cardiac surgery candidate is gradual, under a system of rationed supply some cardiovascular surgery candidates tend to be bumped by patients with other conditions that require immediate care. The result has been lengthy waiting lists, often as long as a year or more, followed by public outcry, prompting short-term funding. For instance, last year we reported that Newfoundland's waiting list for coronary bypass surgery was a year long." Miyake and Walker, discussing how patients deal with such waiting lists, continue: "U.S. hospitals have also provided a convenient short term solution to excessive waiting lists for cardiac surgery. The British Columbia government contracted Washington state hospitals to perform some 200 operations in 1989, after public outcry over the six-month waiting list for cardiac bypass surgery. Wealthy individuals are sometimes choosing to avoid the waiting lists by having their heart surgery performed in the U.S. In fact, a California heart surgery centre has advertised its services in a Vancouver newspaper. Our survey suggests that 5 percent of patients enquire about surgery outside of Canada and 1.5 percent actually have their heart surgery performed outside of the country." -- Joanna Miyake and Michael Walker, "Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada," 3rd Edition, Critical Issues Bulletin, Frasier Institute, 1993. What is more, at least one high-level Canadian political figure even travelled to the U.S. for medical care. Wrote Heritage's Edmund Haislmaier: "When Robert Bourassa, the Premier of Quebec, needed cancer treatment, he crossed into the U.S. and obtained it at his own expense. Such actions by more affluent or politically well-connected Canadians raise the question of whether a two-tiered' health system, of the kind Canadians long sought to avoid, is now emerging." -- Edmund Haislmaier, "Problems In Paradise: Canadians Complain About Their Health Care System," Heritage Backgrounder 883, February 19, 1992, p. 2.

 

CON 4

Limbaugh says that his claim that "most Canadian physicians who are themselves in need of surgery...scurry across the border to get it done right; the American Way" was "an obvious humorous exaggeration." In fact, the passage it appears in -- on page 153 of See, I Told You So -- is completely sober and straightforward. In his rebuttal, Limbaugh is unable to produce even a single anecdotal example of a Canadian doctor who came to the U.S. for any kind of medical treatment -- though he does offer examples of Canadian doctors who moved south to work in the U.S.

 

GREAT SOURCES

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting The National Media Watch Group

 

 

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