Toronto doctor spars with U.S. senator over Canadian health care system
Published Thursday, March 13, 2014 4:32PM EDT
A Toronto doctor who had a spirited exchange with a Republican senator over the Canadian health care system this week says she was expecting a “clash of opinions” when she was invited to speak in Washington.
Dr. Danielle Martin, vice-president of medical affairs at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, was invited to speak at a U.S. Senate committee on primary health and aging this week.
The committee had invited speakers from several countries with universal health care systems to provide their perspective.
When Martin was questioned at the hearing on Tuesday, North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr asked her: “On average, how many Canadian patients on a waiting list die each year, do you know?”
She replied: “I don’t sir, but I know that there are 45,000 in America who die waiting because they don’t have insurance at all.”
Martin was likely referring to a study by Harvard researchers that found that 45,000 deaths each year in the U.S. were linked to a lack of medical coverage. According to the study, published in 2009, the risk of death for uninsured Americans was 40 per cent higher than those in the States who have private insurance coverage.
Speaking with News Channel Thursday, Martin said she wanted to make clear at the hearing that while no health care system is perfect, it’s important that they all be equitable.
“We’ve got problems in the Canadian health care system that we are grappling with and we spoke about some of those at the hearing, but there are some fundamental principles of Canadian health care that Canadians remain very committed to, most notably the principle of equity and the notion that access to health care should be based on need and not ability to pay,” Martin said.
She added the U.S. debate over health care reform, also known as “Obamacare,” reminds us “how lucky we are to be functioning within an equitable system.
“I think that the response we’ve seen to the deliberations in that Senate committee really speak to how important the fundamental principles of medicare continue to be to Canadians.”
Martin said she while she wasn’t expecting to change the minds of the U.S. senators in five minutes, she said the deliberations opened up a “conversation about what the evidence really is in support of a single-payer system.”
“Hopefully some of that conversation is happening in the Senate. I can see it happening across Canada right now in response to the committee hearing.”