Screengrab from Shona Holmes anti-Democrat ad
Ontario's Shona Holmes is back in the American spotlight, claiming the Canadian health-care system failed her and urging people to vote against President Barack Obama.
But Canadian doctors in support of public health care say she's misleading people about both the American and Canadian systems.
Holmes, who came out during the last presidential election with her story of a potentially dangerous delay in medical treatment, stars in a new $6.3-million anti-Democrat ad campaign by the pro-Republican group Americans for Prosperity.
"I started losing my vision. I had lost three-quarters of my vision in my right eye and half my vision in my left eye. And in order to see the specialists that were required it was going to be four months for one and six months for another, and I knew there was no way we could wait for those appointments," Holmes says in the latest ad as music swells in the background.
"I started the quest to getting treatment in the US The doctors agreed that they would do anything that they could in order to get me in for treatment back at home in Canada. My husband spoke up and said, 'We have an appointment in September,' and the doctor put down his pen and said, 'Your wife will be dead by September.'"
Holmes had what's called Rathke's cleft cyst, which many Canadian doctors have said is not fatal.
"If anyone told her that she would die, that it certainly not accurate," said Dr. Danielle Martin, a Toronto physician and chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.
Martin admits vision loss is serious business, and Holmes should have been treated sooner. She wonders if there was a communication problem.
Normally, she said, Canada's system is based on urgency. If something is non-urgent, there could be a long wait. If it's life-threatening, the system tends to work fast.
That's not the case south of the border, she said.
"In America, the people who don't get service aren't the people who have been deemed to have non-urgent problems. It's the people who don't have insurance," she said. "In America, if you don't have insurance and you're not wealthy, you can wait forever."
Holmes opted to have the cyst surgically removed at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
"I knew then that the system had become far more dangerous for patients than I had ever realized. The American system was there for me when I needed it, and it's time for Americans to get engaged in this debate," says Holmes in the ad.
The ad claims Obama's health-care reforms are making the US system "more like the Canadian system that failed Shona."
Martin stressed Obama's reforms are nothing like Canada's public system, which she defended.
"There are a lot of Americans who would love to have the problems that we have in the Canadian health-care system -- but they're not going to get them," she said.
Obama's health-care reforms force insurance companies to provide health-coverage for everyone who applies regardless of age or health, and without imposing an annual cap on coverage. They also expand Medicaid coverage and force all Americans to either get health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
Canada, on the other hand, has a single-payer, government-funded health-care system.
"(Obama's system) doesn't give them public insurance. It doesn't give them a single-payer system. It doesn't give them a queue where the wait is based on the urgency of their needs," Martin said.