Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An open letter to Americans from a Canadian about healthcare.

Hi folks, first, congratulations on Obama winning! That and the stunning, historic collapse of your major right wing party into the creepy muttering guy who avoids your eyes and shoves mimeographed tracks about cleansing rains under your door. Demographically, this doesn't seem like a voting block likely to return them to power while the Jonas Brothers are still touring.

In fact, what you really need to worry about is a Democratic Party that never saw a huge overwhelming victory they couldn't compromise and water down to nothing. Supporters of the single-payer, universal healthcare model - consistently the preferred choice of the majority of you - aren't even allowed in the room.

And 'Canada' has become a bad word.

There are forces working against the idea of Canadian style universal single-payer healthcare in America, even a few Canadians have joined in. A prominent one is Doctor Brian Day, the owner of a chain of private clinics. Doctor Day passionately believes that laws that protect public healthcare at the expense of his income are wrong.

The homegrown opponents of public healthcare are a mixed bag of frustrated right wingers, boardroom libertarians with well thumbed copies of the Fountainhead by their bedsides and as mentioned, by those with explicit business interests in the downfall of public healthcare. Our current extremely right wing Prime Minister used to run a 'tax-payers rights' group called the National Citizens Coalition, founded by an Insurance company owner who lost money when healthcare became a right in Canada.

When you hear people slamming Canadian healthcare, keep a few facts in mind.
  • Overwhelmingly, in poll after poll Canadians support our public healthcare system, oppose further intrusion into it by the private sector and are prepared to pay higher taxes if necessary to improve and protect it.
  • The Canadian healthcare system costs significantly less, per capita and as a percentage of GDP than the American healthcare system. We have drastically less red tape and paperwork as there's only one insurer, they have to cover you, and they don't contest any claims.
  • While costing less than the American system, the Canadian system covers everybody and in the event of a family medical crisis, allows families to deal with pain and loss without losing their homes.
And right now, just for a little while maybe, you have the kind of political momentum that could get you a fully public, universal healthcare system like ours. But the option isn't even allowed in the discussion.

Listen, when Canadians pontificate about how much better our healthcare system is than yours I bet we come off like snide douchebags sometimes, present company included. But its basically because we hope you take our word for it and try it.

Try not worrying if you'll lose your house because somebody got sick. Try going through a day knowing you have quality guaranteed healthcare without a premium that has you stretching the leftovers. Try having a healthier population and a more competitive economy. Try getting medical care based on first come first served balanced with medical judgement, with no one able to buy their way ahead of you.

I really think if you tried it you'd like it and so do they, which is why they're trying to kill it. They want you to believe that no serious person is even considering a public single-payer model and the best solution is to subsidize the same health insurance companies that have been measuring out people's life blood right up to the edge of their profit margin and no further. The same bastards but even richer and more powerful in other words.

Hey aren't you Americans? Since when do you settle for second best?

UPDATE: A word from the Edmonton Journal:
The reason we like our system here is simple enough and certainly has nothing to do with a proclivity for collectivism or dim-witted national bravado. We fully recognize the myriad problems, such as wait times. But most of the time, it just works -- and works equally for people across the economic spectrum. Canadians live longer, are statistically more healthy and spend far less per capita on health care than our American neighbours.

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