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Another View: Canada/Obamacare: What’s in store for California?

Another View
By: Dan Logue, guest columnist
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The clock is ticking toward the full implementation of Obamacare in 2014. Yet Californians still have many questions about what it will mean for their healthcare. There are many unanswered questions about how it will impact the cost, quality and availability of care. But we need look no further than Canada for a preview of what Californians can expect under Obamacare. Most Californians are fortunate to have access to the medical care that we need, when we need it. Unfortunately, the opposite is true under Canada’s government healthcare system. Patients typically endure long waits for basic care and life-saving treatments. The government has issued guidelines for how long it should take for a patient to receive a heart bypass or undergo radiation therapy, for example. But the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that even these unacceptably-long benchmarks aren’t being met. It takes 239 days on average in Canada for a patient to receive a hip replacement, 278 days for a knee replacement, 22 days for radiation therapy, and 50 days for heart bypass surgery. The Fraser Institute found that Canadians are currently on waiting lists for 1 million procedures. In addition to long waiting times, patients also endure rationed care. In 2008, one woman received a note that she had been dropped as a patient of her doctor due to a random lottery to help overworked doctors. A recent media account told of two doctors holding a lottery to choose from amongst 4,000 potential patients for their new practice. But healthcare is about more than numbers. It’s about real people. The real life experiences of Canadians are shocking and show what could be in store for all of us under Obamacare. Consider the case of a Toronto man involved in a bad car accident. He had to have a fist-size piece of bone removed from his skull to relieve pressure on his brain. Once the swelling subsided, he was sent home and had to wait over a year for the hole to be closed. An Ontario man with appendicitis was turned away from six hospitals and eventually had to travel 120 miles and wait 28 hours to receive treatment. A Calgary woman had to give birth to quadruplets in Montana because there was no Alberta hospital with the capacity to care for four premature babies. An elderly British Columbia woman with severe heart problems went untreated for more than four months before her doctor ultimately recommended going to the U.S. for treatment. Most shocking was the case of a 12-year-old girl from British Columbia who was on an 18-month waiting list for surgery, even though she was at risk of permanent damage to her organs. When her parents publicly complained, she was dropped from the waiting list and denied future care except in the case of an emergency. It’s scary to think that Chicago-style politics could get in the way of our receiving necessary treatments when we dare criticize a government official. I don’t believe we should destroy a system that successfully serves 90 percent of patients to solve the problems facing 10 percent. We can reform healthcare without busting the budget, raising taxes or putting the government in charge of our health care. Through free market solutions like tax-advantaged health savings accounts and allowing out-of-state plans to be sold in California, we can make healthcare more affordable and accessible without destroying the system. The lessons of Canada tell us that government healthcare will mean less access to care and even rationing, while hurting employers, killing jobs and raising costs. Sadly, this is exactly what we are facing in California in 2014 under Obamacare. Now that the Court has ruled Obamacare to be constitutional, there’s only one thing left to be done. We must send leaders to Washington who understand the damage caused by government healthcare, and will work to repeal and replace Obamacare. North State Assemblyman Dan Logue is vice chairman of the Assembly Health Committee.