Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Only Time Canada Gets Mentioned in the US News. . .

Canada bashing has been becoming increasingly popular in the US lately due to the ongoing debate about what to do with the US healthcare system. The conservatives in the US have managed to track down every person they can find from Canada who has had a bad experience with the healthcare system in Canada.

I know I’ve addressed this topic in some previous posts (see here and here), but I wanted to revisit the subject in light of the distorted information being circulated in the US.

I don’t want anyone to think that I believe the Canadian healthcare system is that great, but I am starting to believe that, even though the US and Canadian system have different problems, there are actually more problems with the US system.

What I really can’t figure out is why the US government and media is spending so much time talking about Canada’s healthcare system. I don’t believe Obama plans to have the Canadian government administer a new US system. I also don’t believe that Obama’s plan includes remedies for the Canadian system. Really, Americans should be focusing on the problems with their own system.

My co-worker in Canada was telling me about her mother’s experience with breast cancer. Her mother went in for a routine mammogram. Within two days of the mammogram, she was called back to the hospital for other tests, including a biopsy. When the biopsy showed cancer, the lump and some lymph nodes were surgically removed within two weeks.

So, when you hear some disgruntled Canadian lady who had to wait for an important surgery, know that in most cases, when a medical procedure is urgently needed, that individual is seen to quickly in Canada. For every Canadian who has had to wait longer than she should have for proper medical treatment, there are probably hundreds of Americans who have postponed necessary treatments due to lack of funds or insurance.

When Sarah moved to the US from England, she got very tired of people telling her how horrible the English (socialized) healthcare system is. She wondered how these Michiganders, many of whom had never even left the state, knew so much about the system in the UK. Sarah’s philosophy then, and my adopted philosophy, is that no one should make any comments about another country’s healthcare system unless they have personally experienced it. I’m seriously doubting whether the congressman from Texas who called the Canadian system “a socialized piece of crap” has ever lived in Canada and been served by the Canadian system. Doubtful. (But somewhere along the line, someone at conservative politician school taught him how to scare others with the word “socialism.”)

Ask 100 Canadians what they think of their healthcare system, and a good percentage will complain about wait times. Another good percentage will talk about how it is one of the best things about living in Canada because it ensures that everyone receives equal treatment. Ask 100 Americans what they think about their healthcare system and my bet is that none of them will have any positive things to say.

Anyway, below is the full text of an e-mail I sent today to some of my friends and family in the US. It describes more of my own opinions about the healthcare system in Canada, as well as contains something written to me, unsolicited, by one of my friends here.

My fellow Americans,

In Canada, most of us get ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox news channels from the US, so we get a decent amount of exposure to the US news and US advertising.

I got this e-mail (below in italics) from one of my friends here in Canada, who is a police officer and has lived in Ontario her whole life. Her two-year-old daughter has some kind of brain condition that requires ongoing care. I was really surprised at how passionately she defended the system here and thought this might be useful information to you as you encounter "Canadian healthcare horror stories" that are propogated by the Republicans you know.

My own two cents are that

1) for every "Canadian healthcare horror story" there is AT LEAST one "US healthcare horror story" with varying plots and details. As you may know, when I went to the ER in Canada on Easter Sunday with a kidney stone, I received pain killers sooner than I did when I had been to the ER in Grand Rapids for the same thing a year earlier. I was also treated MUCH better in Canada by the hospital staff than I had been at Blodgett (Spectrum). The quality of care, from the medication administered to the follow-up tests ordered, was essentially identical. One other notable difference was that the total out-of-pocket cost for the kidney stone in Canada was less than a dollar (for my prescription painkillers). My cost for the same thing in the US a year earlier was over $350 (co-payments, coinsurance, deductibles, etc.) even though I had insurance through my employer.

2) I don't know what Obama plans to do with the healthcare system in the US, but the best thing about the Canadian system is that everyone gets the same healthcare regardless of their financial situation. If you are a wealthy Canadian, you cannot buy private healthcare treatment in Canada. You get what the regular working-class individual gets. It's very fair to everyone. Maybe that's why the Republicans hate it so much. (Some wealthy Canadians will leave the country to pay for healthcare elsewhere to avoid the wait lists, similar to how Richard Devos bought a heart transplant in England rather than wait on the list in the US.)

3) Just for fun, type "man dies in hospital waiting room" into a Yahoo search. Check out the results. You'll see results of stories from Seattle, North Carolina, New York City, Texas, Australia. There is a result with a story about a guy who dies while waiting in a Winnipeg hospital. Still, seems my odds of living are about proportionate with the population of each country, perhaps even better in Canada. All kinds of information is out there. Do the reasearch and consider the sources.

Anyway, here's what my friend had to say.

It seems the health care thing is a "hot topic" in the USA now. My understanding is that Obama wants to implement a similar style system to that of Canada. I saw an ad on TV that "bashed" our health care system (spoke about long wait times, inability to get a procedure done in a timely fashion etc). I was reminded of the birth of my daughter. I required an emergency C-section (therefore a longer hospital stay) and our daughter required Neonatal care at our local hospital. She was then transferred to Sick Kids hospital in Toronto for 5 days. She requires regular visits to three different doctors. I stress that this condition is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things and very manageable by medication. What if I were an "average family" making $10 an hour or less? Could I pay my bill? Should I then not have children because I can't afford the health care. What about ongoing doctor visits, how will I pay? This could be a life long condition. I walked away with a pat on the back and a "don't worry, everything will be fine". It will be too. I don't even think about the cost involved. I've essentially already paid.

All I can say is, I pay taxes so that we can live a good, healthy life. I also pay taxes into that system because I believe everyone, no matter what your social status, background, etc deserves to be healthy. That is what our health care system allows for. It's truly something that is a gift. I hope it is successful in the USA. The conservative party here has been pushing for health care privatization for a while now. I swear I will fight that to my last breath!

1 comment:

Niagara Anglophile said...


I read your blog with much interest. I know where Cambridge is as I grew up in Buffalo and have family in Canada. I agree with your blog entirely. I have a home in Niagara Falls, NY and teach in Warren, PA, where I have an apartment. I am also in a same-sex relationship with my partner Robert, who lived in Canada for 23 years.

I personally would move to Canada in a heartbeat today if I could, but have to wait a few years to do so to get a decent pension.

The U.S. healthcare system is not just, is dominated by greedy insurance companies who only care about their profit. Unfortunately, so many Americans are so wrapped up in nationalism that they cannot get it through their heads that any other place could have a better system. Sure, we have technology and great equipement, but only a fraction of the population has access to it. It really is a disgrace.

Anyway, I'd love to hear from you sometime. I get over to Niagara on the Lake often and, ofcourse, Niagara Falls in Ontario, when I'm not stuck here in Warren.

For being the "Land of the Free", we are so limited here with rampant heterosexualism and bias.

I've lived in Germany and studied for long periods in Mexico and Spain. We have a lot to learn in this country on many levels as to what freedom really is.