This post is addressed largely to those of you living in the United States.
Debates about the cost and structuring of public health care in industialized nations are hardly a new thing. As most of you reading this probably know, the REAL problem with any of our existing healthcare systems is NEVER discussed in the public debates - that's the absurdity of the reigning medical paradigm (allopathic medicine) and the pharmaceutical giants who sponsor if not control it.
However, that's not what I want to talk about today. What has many of us here in Canada genuinely annoyed is the manipulation of the facts and the outright lies circulated in the United States about Canada's health care system.
A friend of mine in the US suffered a serious stroke back in March. He actually died on the table. He was successfully resuscitated and is doing quite well now, thank God. However, he told me that many of his acquaintances have said to him things like, "It's a good thing you didn't have that stroke in Canada. You'd have probably died before they got around to treating you because you have to wait so long for care in Canada."
Let's set the record straight: No one has to wait for critical health care in Canada. If my friend had suffered his stroke while visiting Ottawa, he would have found himself in a world-class hospital's intensive care unit within MINUTES. And nobody would have been demanding proof of medical insurance before treating him.
As a Canadian I have absolutely NO financial worries related to health care. Neither does anyone I know. I will never be refused treatment for lack of insurance, since we're all insured. I have never had any problems getting my family's medical procedures paid for or getting reimbursed for up to 80% for the costs of their prescription drugs, dental visits, eye glasses and a pile of other necessary services.
For decades now we've been stunned by the American reality of "catastrophic illness" - an illness that wipes you out financially. To us, this is complete madness.
We're stunned by the ideological mud-slinging of your current health care debate and especially by the lies circulating about our own health care system. When people tell you that our Canadian health care is poor, that people in Canada wait forever and still don't get the care they need, or that the system is "socialist" or (sillier still) "communist", YOU need to know this - you are being LIED TO.
Yes, it's always amused us up here in the far north that so many Americans are terrified of "communism" without having the foggiest idea what the word means. Rather than getting into that, though, let's do a little political science lesson I think you'll find MUCH more enlightening.
POLITICAL SCIENCE 101
We've had our current health care system for nearly half a century. We actually PREFER to have our federal and provincial governments run major public utilities and infrastructure. We LIKE the fact that our national airline is publicly owned. We LIKE the fact that our banks are few, large and heavily regulated - it makes them pretty much invulnerable to all those depressions / recessions you're so good at sharing with us ;-)
Is this because we're "left-wing", "socialist" or "communist"? Hardly. We do have a social democratic party, but it has NEVER held power here on the federal level.
No, my American friends, it's our CONSERVATIVES, our "right-wing" that has historically been behind the public ownership of utilities and services that are so vital to everyone and to the national interest.
You see, we inherited the British "Tory" tradition, and conservatives of that ilk have no problem with the idea that certain things are best left in the hands of government, because government, however inefficient it sometimes may be, is not obsessed with making a profit to the detriment of the people as corporations so often are.
("Conservatism" in the USA, however, is just runaway free-market liberalism. For various historical reasons, it bears no resemblance to what Brits or Canadians think of as "conservative".)
So, strangely enough, our publicly funded healthcare system is something ALL major political parties in Canada have always favored. It keeps the people happy, which is one less headache for the politicians.
Does that mean the system is perfect? Far from it. We do have a shortage of doctors and nurses in some localities. You may have to wait a while to see certain specialists for conditions that aren't life threatening.
When I went to see my family doctor, he noticed a wart on my hand. I'd have to pay to have it removed, he told me, because the system considers a wart "cosmetic" unless it's on your private parts! But, you know, I can live with that. If having to pay for a minor cosmetic procedure like that means more resources can go to treating people who have really serious conditions or injuries, then I'm happy to live with my little wart. Besides, I can find something to remove the wart for about ten bucks at the local pharmacy.
THE BOTTOM LINE?
You'd be VERY hard pressed to find ANY Canadian who would trade our healthcare system for yours. Personally, I've never met even one.
So, my American friends, stop allowing yourselves to be manipulated by your unscrupulous media and the special interest groups behind that media because there's one thing you can be very sure of - it's not YOUR interests that those special interest groups are fighting for.
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger