O Damcanada Obamacare

13 08 2009

I just saw someone in an anti-Obama healthcare protest carrying a placard that read “If socialist medicine is best why didn’t Ted Kennedy go to Canada?” Clearly the answer – too obvious for someone whose views are skewed by political hysteria – lies in the fact that Ted Kennedy is not one of the millions of Americans who don’t have equal access to healthcare due to lack of financial means. The hordes of people ranting against the bill seem to be saying that they don’t want the less well-off to have the same opportunity to receive the medical care that they have. (Do you suppose that any of the protesters don’t have medical coverage?) And this, a shining example of democracy,  equal opportunity! Ludicrous!

More than that, since I don’t profess to know what is best for another country, let alone my own, I am perturbed by the temptation of so many of the anti Obamacare crusaders to indulge in attacking the Canadian healthcare system. There are a number of reasons this disturbs me deeply. Primarily, their attacks are based on dredging up a few negative articles and opinion pieces which may highlight some of the shortcomings of universal care. (I don’t pretend our system is perfect – what human political-economic system is?) These types of articles, unfortunately, far outnumber the positive ones because the smooth functioning of a decades old system isn’t newsworthy. It doesn’t garner attention simply because we, as Canadians who have had the privilege of having been served by this system, know that it is healthy, beneficial and above-all universal.  There is not one citizen in Canada ever denied quality medical treatment based on ability to pay. If a patient needs a heart transplant, a family doctor, an emergency room visit, they get in line behind everyone else regardless of income.  And these lines are not as long as our American critics would have the rest of the world believe.

My father recently needed knee replacement surgery and his operation was scheduled within a month of the assessment by the specialist. One month!  Two weeks ago my daughter was bitten by a raccoon and needed rabies shots – she began the course of treatment the same day. My sister died two years ago before which she was in palliative care (compassionate, caring palliative care) for 9 months. My son has ADHD and he has had top quality care since he was 5 years old. I had cancer 15 years ago and was treated immediately and I’m still here to tell the tale.  I could never imagine complaining about our healthcare anymore than I could look a gift horse in the mouth.

Our detractors in the U.S. don’t dare peek behind the curtain for fear of seeing the reality, namely, that we have an outstanding, compassionate system that treats everyone equally and removes the fear of not being able to pay for treatment. It offers comfort in a difficult world. Comfort which should be available to everyone equally since we are all, equally, citizens of our country.  We may not all be able to contribute equally on an economic level but that is a mere function of capitalism and not of human worth and value.

According to American detractors there are hordes of Canadians dying due to unacceptable wait times. Scores of Canadians trip easily across the border for treatment there that they, ostensibly, cannot receive at home – a fallacy which has gained second wind by the one Canadian woman willing to pour shame on her country through U.S. Republican ads because she wasn’t willing to wait for treatment here, (although the direness of her diagnosis and length of her wait still reside somewhere in that nebulous neighbourhood of right wing media scuffing and prevarication). Is it possible that these American pundits believe that Canadians would allow this unbelievable death rate due to exponential wait times continue were it true?  Do they imagine that we have no political will, awareness or power such that we would allow the continuance of these death rates? What level of apathy must they attribute to the Canadian public!

In any case, all of this is just my very grateful reaction in defence of our wonderful universal healthcare. The bottom line is that our system should have little if any relevance to the current American debate since Obama’s bill is about as close to our own system as the Andromeda Galaxy is to the Milky Way.  Obama’s bill would allow for a mix of private and public funding. Ours doesn’t.  Obama’s bill isn’t universal, ours is. The list goes on. It strikes me that in their effort to tear down anything Obama is trying to build, these people are willing to attack their friends and neighbours. A better friend and neighbour Americans couldn’t have than Canada. We have an innate love and admiration for their country. They are our biggest trading partner as we are theirs. Our cultures are intermeshed, our friendship deep and our history rich and lengthy. Our border is, indeed, the longest undefended border in the world. That, in and of itself, speaks volumes.

I love the healthcare we have in Canada. It gives me untold comfort. With three children this is a very vital part of my security. Americans, rightly, worry about national security. It may be that we all have different perceptions of the meaning of national security, but surely, at its most fundamental level, it can mean no more than the protection of each citizen’s right to live. Given this context what could afflict a nation’s people more, threaten its security more profoundly, than the inability to receive medical care? Just look around you at third world countries where malaria, polio and other illnesses are still the scourge.

Codicil: After having posted this I realized that it did come across as overly strident. I neglected to say that I believe the overwhelming number of Americans do not hold the views of this vocal minority. I did not intend to portray that view at all. But the minority who are so stentorian manage to project an image that, at times, overwhelms the majority. Most Americans, I sincerely believe, want the best for every single individual within their borders and don’t agree that attacking the Canadian system is the way to cast dispersion on Obama’s plan.

In addition, I strongly urge everyone to read David’s letter to President Obama about his son Woody. I challenge anyone to read it and still argue against healthcare reform in the U.S. while retaining a modicum of humanity. There is a link to the letter on the sidebar. In addition, for the lighter side of anti-Obamacare protests, check this out; “The Funniest Protest Signs Of 2009″ (PHOTOS) http://bit.ly/NGzhC

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3 responses

13 08 2009
cindyinatl

Thank you for a well thought out blog. I just want you to know that you are seeing a minority on the news. The screaming maniacs at the ‘town hall’ meetings are an embarrassing minority. Even those who don’t agree with the proposed bill for the most part are not participating in this kind of attack on their opponents or on our good neighbor, Canada. There are some normal folks down here too! :)

14 08 2009
Michelle Matthews

It’s funny, I had already changed the post to add a remark exactly on that topic, and then I saw your comment. I do realize that it represents a minority and I’m sorry that I hadn’t acknowledged that earlier. As I said, we truly respect and admire most Americans and your system- we all have some funny apples.

8 10 2009
Zoe D

Well, much like the smoother aspects of Canadian healthcare, quiet Americans who don’t bash Canada’s systems aren’t newsworthy either. It’s a problem because the maniacs now have control of the airwaves.

My LEAST favorite argument on the greatness of American healthcare is “But Saudi royalty come here for healthcare!” Is anyone saying that America has bad facilities? I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone argue that. The United States has fantastic medical centers and doctors, but only the rich have access to them.

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