Canadians cry foul over U.S. healthcare attacks

Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:50am EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian physician Robert Ouellet is tired of hearing Canada's healthcare system cast as the boogeyman in the vitriolic U.S. political debate over healthcare reform.

Critics of President Barack Obama's reform drive have accused him of trying to adopt the Canadian system of public healthcare funding, which they say endangers patients with lengthy waits for medical care.

Some advertisements feature Canadian citizens who say they were denied needed medical care or forced to seek treatment at their own expense in the United States because Canada's system was too slow to respond.

While Ouellet, president of the Canadian Medical Association, admits that Canada's system has its flaws, including excessive wait times for some medical services, he denies the accusation that it puts lives at risk.

"To say that the system is a complete failure is not fair. When people go to the hospital they get good quality medical care. ... People are not dying on the street," said Ouellet, who practices medicine in the French-speaking province of Quebec.

Canada's "national" system is actually a set of provincial and territorial insurance systems governed by a federal law that says coverage is universal, and ensures that taxpayers, not patient fees, pay for primary medical services so everyone can afford them..

"It's 14 systems," Ouellet said.

CULTURAL GAPS   Continued...