Speaking before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, Dr. Danielle Martin, vice president at the Women's College Hospital in Toronto, masterfully showed how to smack down a disingenuous politician's misleading and misinformed questions with courtesy, intelligence and, well, facts. In this instance, the role of disingenuous and ill-informed politician was played by North Carolina's GOP Sen. Richard Burr, who decided to use his question time to imply that the Canadian healthcare system was bad because it led to Canadian doctors moving to America and rich people going to the U.S. to get complicated and expensive surgery. These were both good points -- except for the fact that they were, as Martin made clear, completely wrong.
I've seen some senators struggle during committee hearings before, but this was unusually brutal. Burr, reading prepared questions with an unfortunate smirk, genuinely seemed to think he'd get the better of the Canadian physician.
He thought wrong.
The North Carolina Republican, citing testimony that doesn't exist, asked why doctors are exiting the public system in Canada. "Thank you for your question, senator," Martin responded. "If I didn't express myself in a way that made myself understood, I apologize. There are no doctors exiting the public system in Canada; and in fact we see a net influx of physicians from the United States into the Canadian system over the last number of years."
Undeterred, Burr tried again and again, asking pointed questions based on faulty assumptions. In each instance, Martin patiently and politely explained why the conservative senator was mistaken.
It led to one especially memorable exchange:
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.
Burr, it's worth noting, is ostensibly one of the Senate Republicans who takes health care policy most seriously -- he recently co-authored
an alternative bill to the Affordable Care Act.