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Watch This Doctor Totally School An Anti-Obamacare Senator On Health Care

Dr. Danielle Martin

Dr. Danielle Martin during Tuesday’s hearing.

Dr. Danielle Martin, vice president at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, totally schooled Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on health care Tuesday.

Burr, an outspoken critic of health care reform, is one of North Carolina’s most vocal opponents of the Medicaid expansion. Although only 26% of North Carolina residents agree with state Republicans’ decision to refuse the Medicaid expansion, Burr continues to block efforts to expand coverage for low-income residents — a decision that is preventing over 500,000 people in North Carolina from becoming insured.

Dr. Martin was in Washington D.C. to answer questions from a U.S. Senate subcommittee led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on different health care systems around the world, specifically focusing on countries with single-payer systems.

The countries in question during the hearing all have successful and popular government-sponsored single-payer systems, provide universal coverage and match or outdo the United States on numerous measures of medical outcomes — for far less money than the U.S. spends. To explain this, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asked seven experts to testify before his subcommittee on primary health and aging.

By far the high point of the morning was an exchange between Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Danielle Martin, a physician and health policy professor from Toronto. As Burr stumbled through the typical list of erroneous GOP talking points on health care reform, Dr. Martin responded with facts — which apparently, the senator is unfamiliar with. Everything Burr tossed at Dr. Martin, she succinctly sent back with restrained ease.

Here’s a shortened transcript of the key moments, which start with Burr asking Martin about the observation in her written testimony that wait times for elective surgery in single-payer systems will lengthen as doctors move out of the public system:

BURR: Why are doctors exiting the public system in Canada?

MARTIN: Thank you for your question, Senator. If I didn’t express myself in a way to make myself understood, I apologize. There are no doctors exiting the public system in Canada, and in fact we see a net influx of physicians from the United States into the Canadian system over the last number of years.

What I did say was that the solution to the wait time challenge that we have in Canada — we do have a difficult time with waits for elective medical procedures — does not lie in moving away from our single-payer system toward a multipayer system. And that’s borne out by the experience of Australia. So Australia used to have a single-tier system and did in the 1990s move toward a multiple-payer system where private insurance was permitted. And a very well-known study by Duckett, et al., tracked what took place in terms of wait times in Australia as the multipayer system was put in place.

And what they found was in those areas of Australia where private insurance was being taken up and utilized, waits in the public system became longer.

BURR: What do you say to an elected official who goes to Florida and not the Canadian system to have a heart valve replacement?

MARTIN: It’s actually interesting, because in fact the people who are the pioneers of that particular surgery, which Premier Williams had, and have the best health outcomes in the world for that surgery, are in Toronto, at the Peter Munk Cardiac Center, just down the street from where I work.

(Note: The reference to “Premier Williams” is to Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, whose decision to have a heart valve procedure in Miami, near where he owns a condo, rather than Canada, is widely viewed in Canada as a rich man’s failure to investigate the care available to him closer to home.)

So what I say is that sometimes people have a perception, and I believe that actually this is fueled in part by media discourse, that going to where you pay more for something, that that necessarily makes it better, but it’s not actually borne out by the evidence on outcomes from that cardiac surgery or any other.

The ultimate zinger came at the end of the exchange, when Burr thought he had Martin down for the count about wait times in Canada, and she neatly put the difference between the Canadian and U.S. systems in perspective.

BURR: On average, how many Canadian patients on a waiting list die each year? Do you know?

MARTIN: 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.

While Burr’s hackneyed anti-Obamacare talking points may stand up to vacuous reporters on Fox News, Dr. Martin was far too sharp for the smug senator, who had no response to Dr. Martin’s astute testimony.

You can watch the whole clip here.

 

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