Monday, June 15, 2009

Oh, Canada!

Graphic courtesy of Health Insurance 2008.

President Obama calls spiraling U.S. health care costs a "ticking time bomb." Almost 50 million Americans aren't covered, while every Canadian has access to care.

Why is the United States so late to the game?

Canadians I have known love their country's health care system. The people who don't want the U.S. to move toward serious health care reform--particularly those railing against a single-payer system--have been lying about Canada's successful and popular health care for years (that means you, Betsy McCaughey.) To hear the dissemblers tell it, the typical Canadian wait for care is longer than a typical American waits for the truth on FOX News. And we all know how long that's been.

Here's Bill Mann of, via HuffPo, with a personal account of health care in the Great White North:

The scare ads and op-ed pieces featuring Canadians telling us American how terrible their government health-care systems have arrived - predictably.

There's another, factual view - by those of us Americans who've lived in Canada and used their system.

My wife and I did for years, and we've been incensed by the lies we've heard back here in the U.S. about Canada's supposedly broken system.

It's not broken - and what's more, Canadians like and fiercely defend it.

Example: Our son was born at Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital. My wife got excellent care. The total bill for three days in a semi-private room? $21.

My friend Art Finley is a West Virginia native who lives in Vancouver.

"I'm 82, and in excellent health," he told me this week. "It costs me all of $57 a month for health care, and it's excellent. I'm so tired of all the lies and bullshit I hear about the system up here in the U.S. media."

A Canadian-born doctor wrote a hit piece for Wingnut Central (the Wall Street Journal op-ed page) this week. David Gratzer claimed:

"Everyone in Canada is covered by a single payer -- the government. But Canadians wait for practically any procedure or diagnostic test or specialist consultation in the public system."

Vancouverite Finley: "That's sheer b.s."

I heard Gratzer say the same thing on Seattle radio station KIRO this week. Trouble is, it's nonsense.

We were always seen promptly by our doctors in Montreal, many of whom spoke both French and English.

Today, we live within sight of the Canadian border in Washington state, and still spend lots of time in Canada.

Five years ago, while we were on vacation in lovely Nova Scotia, the Canadian government released a long-awaited major report from a federal commission studying the Canadian single-payer system. We were listening to CBC Radio the day the big study came out.

The study's conclusion: While the system had flaws, none was so serious it couldn't be fixed.

Then the CBC opened the lines to callers across Canada.

Here it comes, I thought. The usual talk-show torrent of complaints and anger about the report's findings.

I wish Americans could have heard this revealing show.

For the next two hours, scores of Canadians called from across that vast country, from Newfoundland to British Columbia.

Not one said he or she would change the system. Every single one defended it vigorously.

Further proof:

Not long ago, the CBC asked Canadians to nominate and then vote for The Greatest Canadian in history. Thousands responded.

The winner? Not Wayne Gretzky, as I expected (although the hockey great DID make the Top 10). Not even Alexander Graham Bell, another finalist.

The greatest Canadian ever?

Tommy Douglas.

Who? Tommy Douglas was a Canadian politician - and the father of Canadian universal health care.

If you are on the fence about a single-payer "Canadian-style" health care system in the U.S., please do some research of your own before swallowing the naysayers stories.

Better yet, ask a Canadian.


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