The Marvels of Socialized Medicine

In a new twist on the law of unintended consequences, Canada’s government-run health system provides an economic stimulus to the airline industry.

From the Windsor Star:

Hunt has stage IV melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. Once it reaches stage IV, melanoma is very difficult to treat and Hunt seems to have only one option left.

Interleukin-2 is a protein in the human body that stimulates the immune system and helps infection-fighting cells multiply and grow. It is used to treat certain types of cancers such as advanced melanoma and renal cancer. IL-2 was approved by Health Canada several years ago, but its use is not as widespread in Canada as it is in the United States.

OHIP covers pre-approved IL-2 treatments in the U.S. for Ontario residents who need it, but Hunt has been waiting to get the life-saving drug for two months.

Here is a stage IV cancer patient waiting two months to get approval for a life-saving drug. But this isn’t the newsworthy part of the story.

He was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2005, when a large, strange-looking mole appeared on his chest. The mole was removed and Hunt underwent chemotherapy.

Over the years, regular checkups at the Windsor cancer clinic didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, but in April, a routine X-ray ordered by the family doctor revealed a tumour in Hunt’s chest. Another tumour had attached itself to a lymph node and more were discovered in Hunt’s bowel.

Hunt and his wife were floored. How could cancer spread so aggressively in the body of a seemingly healthy, young, fit man? And why didn’t anyone catch the melanoma recurrence before it reached the final stage, leaving Hunt with precious little time to fight back?

Despite regular checkups over a four-year period, Hunt’s doctors didn’t catch the recurrence of cancer until it reached stage IV. But this isn’t the newsworthy part of the story either.

Hunt had bowel surgery in Windsor but not all the tumours could be removed from his intestines. He sought treatment in Detroit and had a consultation with an oncologist there but didn’t get OHIP’s approval to proceed because of a simple mistake in the paperwork, Meghan said.

Frustrated, the couple spent hours on the phone, calling doctors, the Ministry of Health and local politicians, hoping that someone could help them.

But while they were scrambling to secure Hunt’s treatment in Detroit, there was a change in OHIP rules.

OHIP will now only cover Hunt’s cancer treatment in Buffalo, NY, where the Roswell Park Cancer Institute is the ministry’s only “preferred provider” of IL-2 treatment for metastatic malignant melanoma and renal cell carcinoma. The Ministry of Health has a number of funding agreements with out-of-country health care facilities, which are chosen based on specific criteria.

Because of a paperwork error, the OHIP would not approve treatment to save Mr. Hunt’s life. Then, while he and his family were struggling with bureaucratic red tape, the OHIP changed the rules requiring Mr. Hunt to seek treatment elsewhere. Is this the newsworthy part of the story?

After much bureaucratic wrangling, Hunt will finally meet with specialists in Buffalo today and find out when he can begin treatment there. But he still doesn’t understand why he and his family have to make the four-hour trip instead of simply crossing the border to get the same medical care in Detroit.

Ministry spokesman Andrew Morrison said the Roswell Park Cancer Institute was selected as a preferred IL-2 treatment provider in May because it seems to be favoured by Ontario’s doctors and oncologists at a lower cost to the government.

Between April 2007 and April of this year, 55 Ontario patients have been referred to Roswell Park for IL-2 treatments, compared to four patients sent to the Harper University Hospital and the Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, Morrison said.

The average cost of sending a patient to Roswell Park was $113,000, compared to $125,000 at the Harper hospital and $148,000 at the Karmanos facility, he added.

It’s comforting to know that Mr. Hunt’s heartrending plight served a greater purpose. Thanks to his sacrifice, Ontario taxpayers “saved” $12,000 in hospital fees. This might help defray perhaps a fraction of the cost of the bloated government regulatory apparatus, unnecessary travel expenses, and salaries of the bureaucrats Mr. Hunt’s family have wrangled with over the past year.

To ensure that the process is fair and competitive, the ministry will review the status of Roswell Park next April, Morrison said.

To be continued?

Full story here.

In a sense, Canadian citizens have been fortunate. Their government-run health plan usually lets them cross the border to receive medically necessary care they can’t get in Canada. After ObamaCare, where will they — and we — go for life-saving treatments?


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