Political Hay

Sarah’s Canadian Outreach

So why condemn her for medical decisions her parents made when she was five?

By 3.10.10

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Perhaps it's a case of cause and effect.

Sarah Palin speaks. Liberals foam at the mouth.

Sadly, it's a condition for which there is no known medical treatment.

The latest outbreak of this condition broke out after Palin spoke in Calgary, Alberta, over the weekend. During her speech, she disclosed that her family used to seek health care in Canada's Yukon Territory during her early years in Alaska. Palin told her audience:

Believe it or not -- this was in the '60s -- we used to hustle on over the border for health care that we would receive in Whitehorse. I remember my brother, he burned his ankle in some little kid accident thing, and my parents had to put him on a train and rush him over to Whitehorse and I think, isn't that kind of ironic now. Zooming over the border, getting health care from Canada.

When word of Palin's remarks came to the attention of the liberal media they immediately started showing frothing symptoms. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post was patient zero:

The irony, one guesses, is that Palin now views Canada's health care system as revolting: with its government-run administration and 'death-panel'-like rationing. Clearly, however, she and her family once found it more alluring than, at the very least, the coverage available in rural Alaska. Up to the age of six, Palin lived in a remote town near the closest Canadian city, Whitehorse.

Where does one begin?

Well, I think it's fairly safe to presume that five-year old Sarah Heath was not in charge of making the family's medical decisions. When Chuck and Sally Heath took their children to receive health care in Canada it was a country that was in the midst of Trudeaumania. The Guess Who was its most popular rock band while Bobby Orr and Serge Savard were its best hockey players. Let's just say a lot has changed in Canada in the intervening four decades up to and including Canada's health care system.

Canadian Medicare was in its infancy in the mid-1960s. It was in 1966 when Canada's Parliament passed the Medical Care Act by the Liberal government of Lester Pearson to provide coverage for doctors' services. Although the federal government set the standards, it was left up to the provincial and territorial governments to administer the program. Not all jurisdictions joined the program right away. The last holdout would not join until 1972. That holdout was none other than the Yukon Territory.

Simply put at the time Sarah Palin's parents sought medical treatment in Canada, the Yukon Territory was not part of their Medicare program. But even if the Yukon had been integrated into Canada's health care system, since the Heaths were U.S. residents they presumably would have been required to pay a fee for any medical services obtained in Canada. Indeed, the U.S. Embassy's Consular Services advises Americans planning to travel to Canada, "Tourists and temporary visitors do not qualify for this health care plan and should have their own insurance to cover medical expenses."

Now Palin's critics might have had a point had she sought medical treatment for herself or her family in Canada while she was Governor of Alaska. Alas there is no evidence she ever took that route. But we do have an instance of a Canadian Premier who recently sought medical care in the United States.

Last month, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams traveled to Florida to undergo a heart procedure that was unavailable in his province. Williams, a Progressive Conservative, makes no apology for his decision. "This was my heart, my choice and my health," said Williams after the procedure had been completed.

Naturally there were those who criticized Williams' decision to seek medical care outside of Canada. Among them was Dr. Wilbert Keon, a retired heart surgeon and currently a Conservative member of the Canadian Senate. While Keon concedes Williams could not have had the procedure done in his Newfoundland and Labrador he argues that the Premier could have had the procedure done in several Canadian cities including Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. "I can't imagine anything that couldn't be done in Canada that is done in America." However, it is also worth noting that Keon did not state when it could be done in Canada.

In 1976, Keon founded the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. How long do cardiac patients in Ottawa wait for bypass surgery? According to the latest data available by the Ontario Ministry Health, the wait time for heart bypass surgery at the University of Ottawa's Heart Institute is eleven weeks. Suppose Williams had sought care in Ottawa? What if he ended up bumping someone on the waiting list that was in greater need of care? He would have been accused of obtaining preferential treatment by jumping the queue. Williams was damned if he did and damned if he didn't.

The same holds true for Sarah Palin. Remember when Barack Obama defended his association with Bill Ayers by stating he was only eight-years old at the time Ayers engaged in domestic terrorism? Well, it's nice to know the liberal media holds Sarah Palin to a higher standard of conduct when she was five-years old than when President Obama was eight.

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.