The Mackinac Center sponsored a luncheon Oct. 26 in Troy where attendees had a chance to meet some of the "stars" of the Center's recent YouTube video series in which Canadian citizens describe the problems they have had with their country's single-payer health care system. Two of those individuals are Shirley McGuin and Mike Jubenville.

Both described how they used to think that Canada had a great system, in part because they rarely used it. Actually, some years ago Shirley had benefited from the system in an emergency situation when a serious head injury put her in the hospital for 16 days. She reports that the treatment was excellent, and that she was pleased at not having to pay any bills.

Mike Jubenville had always been healthy, and found no fault with the system's handling of his children's births, plus some other minor problems.

In both cases their views changed dramatically when they had to rely on the Canadian health care system for treatment of conditions that, while not life threatening, were extremely painful and debilitating.

In Shirley's case, the problem was her knee. After the usual one-month wait for an appointment, her primary care physician — the "gatekeeper" of the entire system — told her that she needed a knee replacement. She was then shocked to discover that the wait to see an orthopedic specialist was 18 months! During the wait her condition steadily worsened, turning this vigorous 60-something woman into a virtual invalid, doped-out most of the time on painkillers that the system readily provided.

When she finally got in to see the specialist, the diagnosis and prescription was confirmed: Knee replacement surgery. After all those months of pain, and a life put on hold, Shirley was crushed to hear the next words: "We have a spot open one year from today." And even that wasn't for sure. 

At this point, all the pain and limping was causing other problems, including aggravating what had been minor back issues. "I couldn't wait," Shirley said. "I have a life to live and grandkids to play with."

Mike Jubenville's story is equally chilling. At the age of 30, he woke up one morning with a stiff neck. No big deal, he thought. But the pain kept getting worse, eventually spreading down his arm and causing numbness in his hand. He was bounced around the system for a while, getting no answer, and eventually was referred to a neurosurgeon. Waiting period: 18 months.

The condition steadily worsened to the point where this young man was bedridden, disabled and unable to work. "It's hard to run your own business when you can't hold a pen," Mike said. He was using his left hand to put his right into his pocket so it wouldn't look weird, dangling there and not able to move. 

After another year, Mike got his surgery, but only after hearing that while they might save his arm, there wasn't much hope for his neck. The surgery was a failure, leaving Jubenville in worse pain than before. He was told that nothing could be done and he would spend the rest of his life that way. Mike choked up telling this to the Troy audience: "I couldn't hang on. I started literally thinking about taking my life."

Clearly something changed for the better for both these individuals, because at the Troy event on Monday each was looking spry and chipper. That "something" was another of the Mackinac Center video "stars," Ms. Kelly Meloche, founder and CEO of the Windsor-based International HealthCare Providers, Inc., which organizes "medical tourism" for individuals the Canadian health care system has failed.

Mike Jubenville and Shirley McGuin were two of the firm's clients. Both described how within weeks of learning they could obtain treatment in the States, surgery was scheduled and successfully performed. In Mike's case, the American doctor spotted something in his MRI that the (overworked) Canadian specialist had missed. Both had to pay for their treatment here, but as Mike asks in the video and at the Troy event, "What's your life worth?"

Ms. Meloche says that at any given moment, between 850,000 and 1 million Canadians are on some kind of wait list for "free" health care. Business is good for her.