Blame Canada?

Those who insist America should have a "free" health care system like Canada's must still explain why Canadians who can afford to do so often head "south of the border" to pay cash for better and more timely treatment.

But what happens to a patient who can't get to the United States fast enough?

"Could actress Natasha Richardson's tragic death have been prevented if her skiing accident had occurred in America rather than Canada?" asked Physician Cory Franklin in Wednesday's Chicago Tribune.

"With prompt diagnosis by CT scan, and surgery to drain the blood, most patients survive," Dr. Franklin points out. "Could Richardson have received this care? Where it happened in Canada, no. In many American resorts, yes. ...

"Canadian health care de-emphasizes widespread dissemination of technology like CT scanners and quick access to specialists like neurosurgeons. ... Compounding the problem, Quebec has no helicopter services to trauma centers in Montreal. ..."

At major Colorado ski resorts, Dr. Franklin reports, things would have proceeded differently. "Once she did present to caregivers, ... she would've been immediately transported by air, weather permitting, and arrived in Denver in less than an hour. If this weren't possible, in both resorts she would've been seen within 15 minutes at a local facility with CT scanning and someone who could perform temporary drainage until transfer to a neurosurgeon was possible."

Canada, which rations services to cut costs, doesn't offer those services. "She might still have died or suffered brain damage," Dr. Franklin concludes, "but her chances of surviving would have been much greater in the U.S."

So far.