Another tale of government-run health-care success

posted at 8:48 am on March 10, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

How will our health-care system run once the government is in charge of it?  People who have VA or Medicare already know the answer to that — and so do the people of Canada, whose model received warm praise from Barack Obama and leading Democrats early in the ObamaCare campaign.  The Toronto Sun reports the story of Kent Pankow, whose brain cancer spread while their medical system tried to decide whether surgery fit within their comparative effectiveness models, and who ended up here in Minnesota in an effort to save his life.  Now Canada won’t fill his prescription for a drug that they supply for other patients (via Newsalert):

Kent Pankow lives in Edmonton, in a province and a country that is trying to either kill him or bankrupt him.

No sense mincing words.

Suffering from brain cancer, Kent Pankow was literally forced to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. for lifesaving surgery — at a cost to family and friends of $106,000 — after the health-care system in Alberta left him hanging in bureaucratic limbo for 16 crucial days, his tumour meanwhile migrating to an unreachable part of the brain, while it dithered over his case file, ultimately deciding he was not surgery worthy.

Now, with the Mayo Clinic having done what the Alberta Cancer Board wouldn’t authorize or even explain, but with the tumour unable to be totally removed, the province will now not fund the expensive drug, Avastin, that the Mayo prescribed to keep him alive and keep the remaining tumour from increasing in size — despite the costs of the drug being totally funded by the province for other forms of cancer.

Kent Pankow, as it turns out, has the right disease but he has it in the wrong place.

Had he lung cancer, breast cancer, or colon cancer, then the cost of the drug — $4,555 per treatment, two times a month — would be totally covered by Alberta’s version of OHIP.

Let’s see if we can’t tally up the scandals in this story.  First, instead of rushing Pankow into surgery, doctors waited more than two weeks to decide whether he was “surgery worthy.”  Obviously, this was not a medical decision, as the Mayo Clinic didn’t take two weeks to make a medical decision on Pankow.

Next, Pankow returns to Canada to continue his treatment, having saved Alberta the $106,000 cost of surgery by bearing it himself, and asks for a cancer drug that is fully covered for other forms of the disease.  In his case, though, the government won’t provide it.  Why?  Not because doctors don’t believe it to be safe or effective, but because government bureaucrats decided to leave it off the list.  Nor is that the end of bureaucratic bungling.  After CTV aired a segment on the plight of the Pankows, the Federal Health Minister claimed that Health Canada wasn’t the problem, while Alberta’s provincial health minister insists that the problem is at the national level.  Instead of treating Pankow, he’s getting the bureaucratic runaround.

Some will say that the runaround happens in America, too, with private insurers.  And they’d be right.  However, people in America have the ability to move to different insurers when they get lousy service, and still get treatment in their own country.  They don’t have to flee across an international border to get medical attention.

Kent Pankow wants to fight his cancer so that he can survive.  Unfortunately, he’s having to fight a two-front war, with his own government trying their level best to help the cancer succeed.  Maybe when Obama offers up the sob stories on the ObamaCare stump, he might consider discussing the Pankows and why people come to the US for lifesaving treatment.  In the meantime, let’s remember this as an object lesson in who says no in a government-run health-care system.

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I find it interesting that on one hand, they claim health care is a right. And on the other hand, they claim we should be curtailing health care efforts for the elderly to reduce costs. So then following this logic, it’s ok to infringe on people’s rights?

InCali on March 10, 2010 at 12:11 PM

Socialized medicine from the party of NO
I am sure Gibbs and his cronies are never planning on being honest and telling people a yes vote for Obamascare means coverage begins in 3-4 years and not tomorrow.
We will have thousands of liberal uneducated idiots in cube farms in D.C telling Docs what to do.
Every little step will call for a review by the cube faRM FOR Approval

seven on March 10, 2010 at 12:34 PM

Looks like he has become on of those unfortunate cases where they consider him expendable to save some tax dollars for other social needs and punishing him for not waiting until they had finish debating on the cost and balances between social needs and his life, which ultimately they decided was worthless to them. Have to wonder if they made the decision based on the fact that he would not qualify for the drug needed to make any medical efforts successful because it was not on their goverment created and approved list.

They just did not have the guts to tell Kent that they saw no reason do anything for him since he was an unfortunate diagnosis. It looks like once you get that, you are not allowed to change it by running off to another country and proving them wrong, unless you are a high and important memember of the government.

Franklyn on March 10, 2010 at 12:50 PM

I have an older brother that has zero conscience and zero empathy. It is like he has no soul; my ma says he was born this way, that he was like this since he was a tiny child. It breaks her heart every day and the dude is 43 now. It happens; but keeping these mentally devoid people from power positions is very difficult, as he happens to be a fracking genius, too.

Ris4victory on March 10, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Not to excuse your older brother’s behavior-but it sounds like he may have Asperger’s Syndrome. I have it-and one of the traits of people with A.S. is their lack of empathy. They also tend to be fairly bright as well.
I have a highly developed conscience…empathy on the other hand…if it’s toward an animal-I’m on it-but a person-it doesn’t come naturally… nor did maternal instinct. It was something that I needed to think about and learn. Now that I know that my ‘wiring’ is different I’ve been able to work on some of the less savory aspects of my personality.
You’re brother might just be a ‘asp’-but from what you wrote it could be A.S.
If he does have Asperger’s that doesn’t excuse his attitude-but it might explain it.

annoyinglittletwerp on March 10, 2010 at 1:04 PM

I’m working on a private plan with my dog’s veterinarian. If O-care passes, she’ll treat me and my Beagle at a huge discount.

cartooner on March 10, 2010 at 9:09 AM

You know, this thought has actually occurred to me.

Last time I took my dog to the vet, he was prescribed a medication that humans can also take.

Cost of my dog’s visit and his prescription were small compared to an analogous human doctor visit.

There’s much that an enterprising and creatively sneaky veterinarian can do for people at reduced cost, especially if socialist health care is dropped upon us and seeps into every corner of this formerly blessed land.

Edouard on March 10, 2010 at 1:04 PM

which ultimately they decided was worthless to them.

Franklyn on March 10, 2010 at 12:50 PM

I do not think that word means what you think it means. It’s obvious that, all along, they didn’t think he was worth saving.

This is the Canadian version of the Hip Replacement Paradigm:

“That’s where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues,” he said in the April 14 interview. “The chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health- care bill out here.”

It’s also called Death Panels, or Throwing Grandma Under the Bus.

unclesmrgol on March 10, 2010 at 1:31 PM

Just get these people who want to run your health care to tell you where all the money that’s been paid into Social Security since it was created is at right now. Anyone who wants these thieves to take over their health care or any more of the economy is a moron.

TrickyDick on March 10, 2010 at 1:52 PM

Well since congress gets the same healthcare reform we’ll get, this won’t happen here. Right?

Akzed on March 10, 2010 at 2:05 PM

I had always thought that Mayo was sort of inconveniently located. I bet the Canadians think it’s in just the right spot.

Pablo Snooze on March 10, 2010 at 2:20 PM

However, people in America have the ability to move to different insurers when they get lousy service, and still get treatment in their own country.

Not if they have, as I do, pre-existing conditions. I’m a cancer survivor and finally had to decide if I was going to pay health insurance or house payment. The premiums were that high and I was laid off with no option but an individual plan.
If my cancer comes back, I’m dead.

ExpressoBold on March 10, 2010 at 3:31 PM

…they claim health care is a right. And on the other hand, they claim we should be curtailing health care efforts for the elderly to reduce costs. So then following this logic, it’s ok to infringe on people’s rights?

InCali on March 10, 2010 at 12:11 PM

Correct. Healthcare is a ‘right,’ but it is not one of the enumerated ‘Inalienable Rights’ endowed to us by our Creator. That’s the important distinction of which we need to be mindful. Therefore, Barry can determine who deserves care and who should be comforted with pain meds and End of Life counseling.
There’s nothing inconsistent about this reasoning at all.

Tom_OC on March 10, 2010 at 6:18 PM

As a brain cancer survivor (26 years), I thank God for the good fortune of living in these United States of America. I am fighting ObamaCare every way I can because my positive outcome is rare in other countries and I want my kids to have the same excellent healthcare that I have enjoyed.

Angry Dumbo on March 10, 2010 at 6:31 PM