Dr. Danielle Martin explains the virtues of our single-payer system before a U.S. Senate subcommittee.
The vice-president of Women’s College Hospital and former chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare was one of a handful of international experts to testify about their respective single-payer health systems before the subcommittee on primary health and aging.
Martin, 38, gave as good as she got when it came to tough questioning from Republican anti-Obamacare senator Richard Burr.
Burr: “Why are doctors exiting the public system in Canada?”
Martin: “Thank you for your question, Senator. If I didn’t express myself in a way to make myself understood, I apologize. There are no doctors exiting the public system in Canada. In fact, we see a net influx of physicians from the United States….”
Burr: “What do you say to an elected official who goes to Florida and not the Canadian system to have a heart valve replaced?” (He was referring to former Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams’ eyebrow-raising decision in 2010 to go south of the border for heart surgery.)
Martin: “It’s actually interesting, because in fact the people who are the pioneers of that particular surgery, which Premier Williams had, and have the best health outcomes in the world for that surgery, are in Toronto, at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, just down the street from where I work… .”
Burr: “On average, how many Canadian patients on a waiting list die each year? Do you know?
Martin: “I don’t sir, but I know that there are 45,000 in America who die waiting because they don’t have insurance at all.”
She is receiving widespread praise for her performance: “Dr. Danielle Martin just became Canada’s newest hero,” boasted the Huffington Post.
“She more than held her own. She did very well,” remarked Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who invited her two weeks ago to testify before the subcommittee, which he chairs.
“My staff did an exhaustive look for who could best reflect the values of the Canadian health-care system. She has a very stellar background, both as an academic and as a physician,” he said in a phone interview from Washington.
Martin is an assistant professor in the departments of family and community medicine and health policy, management and evaluation at the University of Toronto.
In addition to holding an M.D., she has a master’s degree in public policy. She is a recipient of the Canadian Medical Association Award for Young Leaders and was a member of the Health Council of Canada.
Martin said she was honoured to have the opportunity to address the senators, but felt a little sheepish that there seemed to be more interest in what she had to say than the other invited panelists, including Taiwan’s former health minister.
Sanders said her address was enlightening, adding that the U.S. has much to learn from Canada’s health system: “We learned that its strength is in its universality and cost-effectiveness, which Canada does a much better job of than we do.”