Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Two-tiered health care in Ontario

This morning on Newstalk 570, one of the discussion points was the question of whether or not PSA tests to detect prostate cancer should be covered in Ontario under OHIP, considering that annual mammograms are covered for women after a certain age.

Why one and not the other?

Jeff Allan made the point that the McGuinty government seems to have plenty of money to throw around for cricket, but we seem to be increasingly shortchanged in the area of health care.

If preventative medicine is so important, why aren't PSA tests covered? And why aren't eye exams too?

There was an excellent letter in the Record recently which pretty much says it all:

I have been reading a lot in the news about whether we should have a two-tiered medical system -- hello, it is already here! There is one system for women and one for men.

Why are annual Pap tests and mammograms for women covered under our current medical system and the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood tests to detect prostate cancer in men cost $30?

Today, I read that we are spending $83 million to vaccinate young girls for cervical cancer. What is not two-tiered about all this? Does anyone realize that prostate cancer is not an old man's disease anymore and it is becoming more prevalent in younger men and one in seven men will get prostate cancer?

Yes, it is a curable cancer but only if it is caught in an early stage. One of the best indicators is the PSA blood screening. Prostate cancer is fast becoming a silent killer of men. And also, the loss of breasts is devastating but how about what men can lose with removal of the prostate -- including their lives?

I know all this because I am a prostate cancer "victim" as was my father and grandfather. This was diagnosed by my annual PSA test as the anal exam did not indicate a problem. And guess what? Now that I am a "victim" as they classify me, my ongoing PSA test is covered if I go to the cancer clinic to have it done. We need to realize that this test needs to be covered under our medical program now.

Oh yes, my ongoing treatments for curing my cancer will be covered under our medical system and in my case I took the preventive measures. What about those who do not because of the cost? Let's level the playing field here. Annual PSA blood tests need to be covered under our medical system.

And guys: This is no longer your "father's disease." Discuss this on your annual visit with the doctor, get tested and pressure our government to make this important test covered under our medical program.

Tom Sutherland

Wasaga Beach

Are men being discriminated against in Ontario?

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Anonymous said...

Gotta admit..Jeff Allen makes me laugh.

I think he is clueless on a lot of issues. But his muck-raking makes me laugh. Even when it hurts!

paulsstuff said...

My health insurance at work covers the test,but only for those 50 or older.3 years to go.Until then,$25 is pretty cheap for peace of mind.

But it is a valid point.Given McGuinty's recent announcement for cervical cancer,and I am sure early detection of prostate cancer would offset any costs of people who find out to late, I see no reason why the government would not step up and cover it.

Hell, whenever the $billion spent on the gun registry is brought up, the left always quotes the "If it saves one life it's worth the cost" line.Surely that applies here.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

"If it saves one life it's worth the cost" line.Surely that applies here.

Good point. The test is relatively cheap, yes, but many people balk at shelling out of pocket for health care.

I shudder to think of how many people might be driving that have decided to forgo eye exams for the same reason.

Anonymous said...

Health care unions want to extract as much money out of taxpayers as possible - that's the only goal of those who advocate a 'single tier'.

Since union workers hold all the power over health care - they should be lobbied to include various tests. Yes it's inefficient and expensive, very.

Anonymous said...

The issue of PSA screening is not quite as cut and dried as one might think. I am an Albertan where the cost of the test is not covered either. There is no real evidence that PSA testing will in fact save lives. A research of the literature will tell you that. Both breast and crevical cancer are more aggressive and much more likely to be cured with early detection. While prostate cancer can be also treated if detected early, a high PSA test can be a sign of other prostate issues. A DRE performed by most doctors on male physicals will detect any significant prostate abnormality. Urologist, in my experioence, are too quick to recommend a biopsy and then prostectomy/radiation if any cancer is dectected. Results of the treatment lead to issues such as incontinence and impotency. Prostate cancer is a VERY SLOW progressing desease for the most part, the progress of which can be stopped by a change in diet, taking recommended supplements (not drugs) and life style modification. Most North American men, if they live long enough will die WITH prostate cancer and NOT of it. Any man who does get a 'high' PSA test should study and think long and hard before they go for the conventional medical approach. It goes without saying here that "I am talking my own book".


Anonymous said...

We already have two-tiered health care in Ontario.




Make that multi-tiered health care in Ontario. We already have many diagnostic and treatment centres run privately and we have P3 hospitals WHICH the Liberals kept around.

The third tier represents those without doctors.

A fourth tier is those who pay a premium "tax" for healthcare and still have to travel for over an hour to get a CT Scan.

A fifth tier resulting from all of the above is a population who feels that it doesn't wish to inconvenience the system so they end up not being proactive about their health.

Two-tiered system is so yesterday folks.

Roy Eappen said...

In this instance I have to agree with Eric. Many doctors are dubious of the PSA test and many believe it causes more harm than good for screening.
It is more useful in those who have prostate cancer and are being followed for it.

The first is a blood test to measure PSA (prostate specific antigen), a protein produced by the prostate gland. PSA levels may rise when prostate cancer is present. Unfortunately, the test has both false positives (76 percent of men with a high PSA do not have prostate cancer) and false negatives (30 percent of men with prostate cancer may have a normal PSA). The test also cannot distinguish whether the prostate cancer is slow growing and unlikely to cause symptoms, or aggressive and more likely to cause symptoms or death.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

A fourth tier is those who pay a premium "tax" for healthcare and still have to travel for over an hour to get a CT Scan.

Dang. I meant to mention that old health care tax. Jeff brought it up this morning too.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

BTW, "old" as in horrible. New to Ontario since McGuinty.