10 August 2009

Demonizing Canadian Health Care

Cartoon by John Janik.

Health care reform and the lies about the Canadian system
When you put the two systems side by side, it is easy to see why no Canadian would even consider changing their system for ours (even conservative Canadians). In Canada, they consider decent health care to be a right of every citizen regardless of wealth or class.
By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / August 10, 2009

We've been hearing a lot recently from the Republicans about the Canadian health care system. If you listen to them, you would believe the Canadians have a terrible system, with rationing that is a death sentence for the elderly and possibly others, who have to wait endlessly for life-saving treatment from a government doctor.

Of course, these are all lies. But with our own system so badly broken it is indefensible, how could the Republicans possibly justify wanting to keep the current system? There was only one way. Accuse the Democrats of trying to institute a system like the Canadian system, and then tell so many lies and half-truths that the Canadian system would be so demonized that our own terrible system would look good by comparison.

They are able to get away with demonizing the Canadian health care, because very few Americans actually understand what that system entails. They just have heard that it is a government-run system, and therefore must be socialist (and Americans have been taught that anything connected to the word socialism must be bad).

A good example of this attempt to demonize Canadian health care is a TV ad paid for by an ultra-right-wing group called the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. They created and funded an organization called Patients United Now, that they were hoping gullible Americans would think was a grassroots patients organization. It isn't. It's a shadow organization created by the wealthy who want to keep our current badly broken health care system.

The TV ad they are running shows a Canadian woman named Shana Holmes who says she had a fast-growing and life-threatening brain tumor, but she would have had to wait six months in Canada for treatment. She claimed she would have died waiting for treatment in Canada, so she went to Arizona and was saved by the American health care system where she didn't have to wait.

That sounds like a horrible indictment of the Canadian system. The only problem is that it is NOT TRUE! She did not have a brain tumor, and her life was not at stake. Even if she had to wait the full six months (and that is doubtful), she would not have died. What she had was a cyst, which she had since birth. It was beginning to press on her optic nerve and needed to be removed, but a short wait would have caused her no harm.

Another thing she fails to mention in the ad is that she ran up a huge medical bill by coming to America for her operation -- a bill that is too large for her to pay. She is currently suing the Canadian government in an attempt to make them pay for it.

After all the lies and falsehoods being told about Canadian health care, I thought it would be good to actually compare their system to the American system. Can it be as bad as the Republicans would have us believe? If it is, why aren't the Canadians flocking to America for treatment (and they are not, regardless of what right-wingers want us to believe)?

Here is the truth about both systems:
  • Canada has only one health insurance provider -- the government. There is no need for the system to make a profit.
The United States has hundreds of private insurance companies, all trying to maximize their profits and curb the amount they pay for medical care.
  • All of Canada's citizens have health insurance coverage.
At least 46 million Americans (and possibly many more) do not have any health insurance at all, and currently 14,000 people a week are losing their coverage in our poor economy.
  • Canadians have their choice of any doctor or hospital they want to use.
Americans must choose their doctor and hospital from a list provided by their private insurance company.
  • No Canadian can be denied insurance coverage for a pre-existing condition or because their required treatment is very expensive.
American insurance companies routinely deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, and have been known to cancel policies when treatment gets expensive.
  • Many times Canadians must wait weeks or months for elective surgery, because those with life-threatening illnesses are treated first.
Americans do not have to wait for elective surgery if they have the money to pay for it. But the insurance will pay for little or none of it. The poor and uninsured cannot get this surgery at all.
  • The Canadian system puts an emphasis on preventive care, and Canadians see their doctor more often.
The uninsured and underinsured in the U.S. get no preventive care at all.
  • Canadians live an average of three years longer than Americans.

  • The Canadian infant mortality rate is 20% lower than in the U.S.
Well, there it is. When you put the two systems side by side, it is easy to see why no Canadian would even consider changing their system for ours (even conservative Canadians). In Canada, they consider decent health care to be a right of every citizen regardless of wealth or class.

Our current system does not recognize a right to decent health care. Instead, health care is a commodity to be sold to those who can afford it. The rich get top-notch care, while the middle class struggles to get adequate care (about a million a year go bankrupt trying to pay for health care). The poor and working classes get inadequate or no health care. This is not a system worth defending. That is why the Republicans must demonize the Canadian system in order to keep our current system intact.

The truth is that none of the plans introduced by the Democrats would impose anything like the Canadian system. Even those plans with a public insurance option fall far short of the Canadian system. I wish our politicians had the political courage to propose something similar to what the Canadians have, but they don't. The best we can hope for at this point is that the reform will contain a public option, which can be enhanced in the future when Americans come to their senses.

Don't believe the Republican right-wing lies. Demand a public option be included in any reform.

(There is an Source excellent article in the Los Angeles Times written by a Canadian doctor. I urge you to read it.)

Also see Exposing Lies About Canadian Health Care by Victoria Foe / The Rag Blog / August 5, 2009

[Rag Blog contributor Ted McLaughlin also posts at jobsanger, an excellent Texas political blog.]

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