Steffie’s Choice

What could be worse than having to pay for your own mammogram?  Being told you can’t pay for one, of course.  Especially if the wait for a “free” government scan is measured in months.

Case closed, right?  Not if you’re Steffie Woolhandler, who along with her husband, David Himmelstein, has spent years urging Americans to adopt Canada’s healthcare system.

A new Woolhandler study finds women are punished by high-deductible, Health Savings Account plans because they have expenses men don’t have: mammograms, pap smears, prenatal care, etc.  The study is not available for public inspection.  But for those who can’t wait, Woolhandler explained the bottom line to an AP reporter this way: “High-deductible plans punish women for having breasts and uteruses, and having babies.”

Move over, Rosie O’Donnell.

A glaring omission in the AP article: most HSA plans make preventive care a first-dollar coverage exception to the high deductible, and/or deposit funds in the HSA so that women can purchase care on their own.

An even more glaring omission: failing to mention how women fare in Canada.

The organization Cancer Ontario reports an average wait time of more than five months between the first abnormal mammogram and a diagnosis of breast cancer.  Some women wait more than seven months.  A Fraser Institute study finds:

  • Canadian women wait an average of 3 ½ months for treatment after referral to an OB/GYN; and almost 7 months, in some places. 
  • Despite a new study showing that MRI’s are especially appropriate for women with high breast cancer risk, Canada has only half of the US number of MRI machines per capita.
  • The average wait for an MRI in Canada is 2 ½ months and in some places more than six months.
  • Canadian women are not able to readily access sonograms or ultrasounds in their doctor’s office in most cases, and therefore must go to hospitals for their tests instead.

In general, it is illegal in Canada to take money from patients for services that are supposed to be provided free by government.  The exception is Quebec, where a Canadian Supreme Court ruled that patients have a right to buy on their own what they cannot get from the state without inordinate delay.

Link to AP article:

Comments (2)

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  1. Lori Gluth says:

    John, I have attached a link to today’s Investment News. A few of the many supporters of consumer-driven healthcare have disputed her claims, but most importantly exposed her true agenda. Thought you would find this interesting. Thanks for letting me comment.

  2. Gerard says:

    Dr. Goodman,

    I have not replied to any of your messages before, but I can’t
    help but ask a few questions in response to statements made in
    this Health Alert…

    Regarding out of pocket costs for US residents compared to the
    Canadian health care system:

    Are Canadian citizens’ health impacted by the ‘delay’ in health
    maintenance appointments or follow up studies? (ie is morbidity
    or mortality increased by the several months wait for an
    ultrasound or MRI?) US expenditures on the health ‘service’
    industry is astronomical compared to other countries without
    comparative health care statistics to other 1st world nations.

    I would argue that the number of MRI machines available in the
    US hasn’t significantly increased morbidity or mortality for our
    country. Effective use of resources are a measure of the cost
    and benefit of health care resources.

    Certainly I don’t have the magic bullet to fix our monolithic
    health care system, but a balanced argument should include these

    Thank you.