As we are faced with the imminent prospect of government-rationed healthcare in the U.S.,  it is worth looking at the case of Coree Hanczyk, from Canada. 

This isn’t your standard horror story of government-run healthcare (although, of course, there are pleanty of those). Rather ,it is something more insidius – it is about how everyday bureaucratic intertia costs money and lives. Think Free reports:

Hanczyk is a 45-year-old flight attendant who lives outside Toronto. Canadian doctors found a tumor in her breast. The problem arises, however, in determining whether chemotherapy is necessary.

When faced with small, estrogen-receptor-positive tumors, with lymph nodes free of cancer, chemotherapy is beneficial to only a few. The trick is in determining who they are.

While the tumors look the same under a microscope, a test – the Oncotype DX test – can determine if the cancer is likely to return within the next decade by analyzing 21 genes. Without the test, women must make a choice: undergo chemotherapy, with its possible side effects of leukemia, neurological damage, infertility and premature menopause, or risk a recurrence in the next decade.

Herein lies the problem. Government bureaucracies move at a snail’s pace and are certainly ill-suited when it comes to working in the fast-paced world of personalized medicine. Here in the United States, most insurance companies and Medicare will fund the test. The decision makes sense because the test is cheaper than chemotherapy. In fact, an estimated $100 million was saved last year in the United States because some 50,000 women took the test, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

In Canada, however, the health care bureaucracy has yet to approve funding for the test, and any such approval, if it comes, is at least a year away, which is bad news for the estimated 12,000 Canadian women, such as Hanczyk, who need the test every year.

Hanczyk, who watched her mother slowly die under chemotherapy, decided not to be a slave to a sluggish medical bureaucracy. In September, she paid $3,776 to have a chunk of her tumor sent from Toronto to California and be tested. 

Read the whole post here.