Actually, the term “surgery” is a little grandiose for this procedure. These days, fixing a torn meniscus requires only a couple of small holes in the knee—-one for an arthroscope and the other for the instruments the surgeon uses to cut the tissue.

Why should you care about this? Well, because it illustrates the swiftness and ease with which such injuries are diagnosed and treated in the U.S.  If I lived in Canada, I would now be languishing on a waiting list instead of swaggering around like I was never injured.

The interval between my first PCP visit and my MRI was 3 days. The Fraser Institute reports that the median wait time in Canada for an MRI is 9.7 weeks. I was in front of a specialist 1 week later. In Canada, the average wait time to see an orthopaedic surgeon is 36.7 weeks.

The surgeon, having looked at my knee, was ready to fix it the following week. The only reason it took longer was due to a conflict in MY schedule. In Canada, depending on the province, the wait time from the specialist visit to the actual procedure is anywhere from 10 to 32 weeks.

If not for a conflict in my own schedule, the whole trajectory from initial PCP visit to surgery would have been about 3 weeks. In Canada, I would have been very lucky to get the thing done in less than 6 months. And many people wait as long as a year. 

Canada has a single-payer system much like the system now being pushed by Senator Kennedy and Congressman Pete Stark. And it’s not unlikely that our new President will cave in to their pressure. If he does, the American public will be unpleasantly surprised with the quality of their “free” care.

Comments 3

  1. Marc Brown wrote:

    I take it you’re aware that arthroscopic knee surgery is well known as a sham procedure – physical therapy is mostly better – and that most of your health insurers won’t cover it for mild to moderate symptoms in any case.

    Posted 26 Nov 2008 at 7:48 am
  2. Catron wrote:

    Marc, you really should to read beyond the headlines. You would make fewer embarrassing mistakes. The NEJM study that got so much attention recently didn’t show that arthroscopic knee surgery is a “sham.? What it showed was that the procedure isn’t very helpful to people with osteoarthritis.

    I don’t have arthritis. My problem was a torn meniscus. Despite the predictable misreporting by the “news? media, the only finding related to my type of injury is that minor tears can sometimes be present without causing symptoms (i.e. pain). I can assure you that my tear wasn’t minor and that its “symptoms? were quite pronounced.

    I can also assure you that you have no idea what you’re talking about on the insurance coverage for these procedures. My health plan paid for the procedure without a peep, and standard health insurance pays for this procedure 98 percent of the time it is done in my hospital. If this were not the case, we wouldn’t be doing it.

    Posted 26 Nov 2008 at 11:32 am
  3. Matt Horn wrote:

    Mark, you have private health insurers and the NHS confused. Private insurers generally cover what is deemed medically necessary regardless of the severity of the symptoms. If you catch and correct early, a course of treatment will usually cost less. See, the free market at work! Isnt it wonderful!

    Posted 26 Nov 2008 at 2:22 pm

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