Canadian Rationing

I wonder if Shona Holmes ever met ‘Joe’ the ‘Plumber’ …

WASHINGTON – Shona Holmes is the Harry and Louise of this year’s health care debate, only unlike the fictional folks who memorably trashed the Clinton-era health plan in advocacy ads 15 years ago, Holmes is real.

But her story? It’s not quite the slam-dunk indictment of socialized medicine that’s been portrayed by Republican lawmakers and their allies.

Holmes, a Canadian living under that country’s single-payer system, has said flatly that her brain tumor would have killed her if she’d accepted her fate in Canada — a wait of four months for one specialist and six months for another. Instead she went to the U.S. and had successful surgery.

But she never had cancer — a fact routinely omitted by the advocates who have seized on her case. Technically, she didn’t have a tumor, either. She had a benign cyst that was apparently threatening her eyesight.

So Shona Holmes got the surgery she needed at the time she wanted, and she owes about $100,000. She needs to do a lot of Republican speaking engagements to make that up, and she’s suing Canada. She could have had the surgery there, with no bills, if she’d waited a few months.

I’d sympathize with Holmes’ nervousness if the US was a place where we provided good care to all our citizens with no waiting. In fact, an American with the same condition and no money would probably not get surgery at all.

In a related story, the autopsy on Michael Jackson shows that he was in good health at the time of his death. It seems likely that the drugs were the sole cause. Jackson had lots of money to exercise choice on the free market and hired all the doctors he wanted to do what he wanted. His own privatized, personal doctors. Bad outcome. This is one way in which health care is not just another product or personal service. Your doctor needs to be accountable to some other standard than pleasing the customer, because sometimes the right treatment is no treatment.

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