NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 10, 2004

The speed with which President Bill Clinton received quadruple bypass surgery provides an important lesson in health care. Had the Clinton Health Security Act passed 10 years ago, he might not have been able to get his diagnosis and surgery appointment so quickly, says Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute.

  • Under the Clinton plan, the federal government would have compelled all Americans to buy health coverage, dictated what type of coverage they would receive and where they would purchase it, set prices for coverage and medical services, and encouraged states to form their own single-payer health care systems.
  • The power of individuals to make countless choices about their health care would have been handed over to government, and the few remaining market mechanisms that contain costs and promote quality would have been lost.

Since the Clinton health plan was defeated, explains Cannon, untold patients have been aided because America's health care system was not subjected to the shortages and waiting lines that plague other nations with national health care, such as Canada.

According to the Fraser Institute:

  • The median wait for an appointment with a cardiologist in Canada's single-payer health care system was 3.4 weeks in 2003.
  • The wait for urgent bypass surgery was another 2.1 weeks on top of that, while the wait for elective bypass surgery was an additional 10.7 weeks.
  • Canadian doctors reported a "reasonable" wait would be 0.9 and 6.1 weeks, respectively.
  • Great Britain and New Zealand have even longer waiting times for bypass surgery.

Furthermore, low-income Canadians have less access to specialists and have lower cardiovascular and cancer survival rates than their higher-income neighbors, observers say.

Source: Michael Cannon, "Clinton Got Quick Care, Unlike Canadian Heart Patients." Cato Institute, September 8, 2004.

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