Michael Moore is the latest liberal to suggest that if “Breaking Bad” character Walter White had lived in Canada when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, he wouldn’t have had to resort to cooking methamphetamine.
As a high school chemistry teacher, of course, White had health insurance. Probably very good health insurance.
The problem was, White wanted to get treatment at a world-class oncology center that was not in his insurer’s network.
As economist Glen Whitman notes,
Walter White makes his first foray into the meth business before health expenditures are even mentioned. Walter does have insurance coverage, and his HMO will cover his cancer treatment. It’s true that Walter mentions that his HMO isn’t very good at some point, but that’s as far as it goes. As it turns out, Walter doesn’t even intend to endure the treatment (as revealed a few episodes later in “Cancer Man”). It’s very clear that Walter’s overriding goal is to leave a nest egg for his wife, disabled son, and unborn baby.
Eventually, health costs do become an issue when Skyler pressures Walter to undergo treatment after all. But it’s not because his HMO won’t pay. It’s because Skyler finds an oncologist who is not just one of the best in Albuquerque, but one of the top 10 oncologists in the nation. It turns out this super-doctor with his fancy cancer treatment is not covered by the HMO, and the out-of-pocket price is $90,000. Some will say that’s the smoking gun that indicts the U.S. healthcare system. But there is no system in the world that offers high-end care to everyone. The vaunted U.K. and Canadian systems offer care to every citizen, but they don’t offer the best care to every citizen. That’s just not possible. A single-payer system is essentially a giant public HMO, and just like private HMOs, they sometimes deny treatment or (more relevant here) deny the highest-quality treatments. Citizens who aren’t happy with the coverage provided by the government system have to pay for it themselves, either through supplementary private insurance or out of pocket. Sometimes they even travel to foreign countries, like the U.S., for that care.
By the way, U.S. physicians do a pretty good job of treating cancer, which is one reason why some Canadians come to the U.S. for medical treatment.
We know some Americans buy medicine in Canada, but how many patients travel to Canada for treatment?