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Canadians for US Health Care Reform
Maybe putting a moose on the quarter will help

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
July 25, 2009

One of the more interesting things on Usenet this week has been the large numbers of posting by Canadian members on the issue of health care reform in the United States.

Now, as a rule, most Canadians who don't live in the United States don't get involved in topics domestic to the US. Most American users return the favor, if only because they have learned that Toronto isn't the capital of Canada, and Prince Charles isn't the King of Canada, and got tired of being laughed at.

But the topic of Canadian health care comes up frequently, and of course, the far right likes to portray the system as a Marxist nightmare in which children have to wait ten years to get a broken arm reset and little old ladies have to have compulsory prostate exams before they are allowed to vote.

What the people who spread that kind of manure to the American public didn't realize is that some of their supporters would believe these lurid tales, and cross post them to Canadian groups.

Presumably, they were enlisting Canadian aid. Hopefully, they would start seeing posts from British Columbia or Nova Scotia or Neptune say, “Oh, gawd, please help us, we're dying like flies up here.”

The problem is that a large majority of Canadians like the provincial systems (there's actually a dozen different systems in Canada; ten provincial systems that are generally very similar, a federal one for the territories and reserves, and one for the military, and about 90% of Canadians are in one of the provincial systems). So instead of gratifying stories from desperate Canadians about how their children might still be alive if they had only listened to Richard Nixon when they had the chance, Usenet has been getting a lot of messages that say things like, “Man, I'm glad I don't live down there. I know people who won't even visit the US because they are afraid they might get hurt or get sick and end up in an American hospital”.

Not only do most Canadians like their health system (and certainly, Canadians bitch about the system, but griping is a national hobby in Canada), but they regard the privatized model in the US with a mixture of horror and contempt.

So instead of horror stories, Usenet users read of things like, “I was in a headon collision in Vancouver. I spent a week in the ICU, and five weeks on the surgical floor, recovering. Afterward, the hospital sent me a bill for $16.35. I had made some long distance calls that weren't covered. That was the only bill I saw, and I'm fully recovered now.”

One user, calling himself “Chom Noamski” wrote, “The biggest lie is that Canada's single-payer universal healthcare is inferior. The right bases its criticism on exceptions while ignoring honest apples-to-apples statistical metrics. For example (cue fear response) 'you will die on a wait list.' The right ignores the 18,000 Americans who die every year because of NO INSURANCE (only people with money count when it comes to comparative metrics). When population is compared against population, versus insured against insured, far fewer people die from lack of access in Canada.” Chom might actually be an American, judging from the spelling of “inferior”.

Chom also cited an article from a newspaper in Calgary, which is perhaps the most Conservative city in Canada by Naomi Lakritz of the Calgary Herald, who wrote “Sheesh! To hear the extremist rhetoric floating around south of the border, you'd think Canada's public health-care system was the socialist demon incarnate, hatched directly from the fevered imaginations of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels themselves. Cool it, America. Your health-care system is nothing to write home about, with some 46 million people sans insurance, with your managed care and gatekeepers, your doctors wasting time filling out insurance forms, and your insurance companies dreaming up ways to avoid paying out to people who faithfully paid their premiums for years.” Alberta, the oil-rich western province above Montana, so admires all things American that there has been a small but persistent movement to leave Canada and join the US. There's a tendency in the rest of Canada, as a result, to regard Alberta as being somewhat like the Slim Pickens character in “Doctor Strangelove” who rides the bomb down.

Another Canadian wrote: “The USA has a for-profit medical insurance industry. Consequently, those who do not generate profits for the industry are not insured, except in some cases by the government. If the insurance was cheap and readily available, everybody would have it and the insurers wouldn't make any money...People all over the world are paying the price for the financial deregulation spurred on by the wingnuts in the US. Somewhere along the line, banks and other financial institutions, including insurance companies, seem to have forgotten that the money they're playing with isn't theirs. It belongs to their customers.”

Another, called Archie, wrote: “I can go to a doctor in this country and have something checked out if I'm worried about it. No problem. I can be devastated with a crippling illness or injury but I don't have to worry about losing my house and my savings. I don't have to prove anything at all about pre-existing conditions because in Canada, profit doesn't enter into it. It is socialism - we got it and you don't.

“You better hope you don't get the jaundice eye from the HMOs and you better hope that you and yours remain healthy. Otherwise, you are a stat - one of the 60% of bankruptcies in the USA related to health care.

“Your system is cruel and barbaric. Good luck. You need it.”

An American had the misfortune to suddenly develop a life threatening situation, but fortunate enough to do so while visiting in Canada. Ian Welsh wrote, “A Personal Perspective on Canadian Healthcare

“I should add that I have firsthand experience with how the Canadian system prioritizes treatment. In 1993, at the age of 25, I became very ill with ulcerative colitis. I was hospitalized, and put on very expensive drugs. About a week after being hospitalized, the nurse watching me called in my doctors on a Sunday because I was deteriorating so fast—pain killers were no longer having any effect (i.e., high doses of morphine were not working), I wouldn’t let anyone touch me, and I was becoming delirious. At about midnight, they wheeled me into the operating chamber and took out my large intestine. While they were digging around, they found out I had appendicitis, and they took that out too. It would have burst within 2 days, and in my weakened state, it would have killed me.

“Unfortunately, one of the treatments for ulcerative colitis involves immune suppressing drugs. My immune system basically shut down, my liver almost shut down, and I spent almost another 3 months in the hospital, riddled with extremely painful and crippling infections and other problems. At one point I was on 9 drugs; one of them was an antibiotic so expensive that only a single doctor in the hospital could approve it. My gastroenterologist called the treatment the equivalent of “pouring gold dust into your veins.” I wasted away, my weight dropping below 90 lbs. I often joke that I was old young: I’ve used a walker, crutches and cane.

“The Universal Healthcare Bottom Line : The ultimate point of my story is simple: I got the care I needed, when I needed it, and I never paid a single red cent.”

As far as I know, nobody solicited such posts. It's just that dumb right wingers decided to rope in the Canadian groups, and belatedly discovered that Canadians didn't like being lied about, and they were tired of watching Americans being lied to.

It has been noted that the insurance companies, in preliminary negotiations with the Obama administration, said they were willing to cut their profits by $80 billion. The servile corporate media paid no attention to this and few asked what sort of profits they hoped to protect by throwing away $80 billion a year, and why we were giving them this $80 billion a year in the first place.

The right wing, which consists, as David Sirota memorably noted, of the richest 1% in American, and anyone they can either buy or fool, has been in overdrive all week trying to lie, confuse, and change the subject. Some idiot Congressman came up with an utterly phony flowchart that looked like the design for a nuclear reactor, and right wing media have been trying to present that utterly imaginary chart as the description of the as-yet non-existent “Obama plan”.

In fact, they've having a field day with “The Obama Plan” since there is no such thing, and so they can make any claim they want about it. They've tried claiming that it would outlaw all private health insurance (Investor's Business Daily blew what little remained of its journalistic credibility with that howler) and of course, there's the endless scare stories about waiting lists and forced euthanasia and not being able to get a choice of doctors. And of course, the “Bobs” have shown up with their messages of fear, pretending to be concerned grass-roots citizens. They're easy to spot, because the language, born of corporate committee speak, is so stilted, and they cling so stubbornly to the message, and avoid engagement.

Of course, given that there IS no plan yet, it's anyone's guess whether the Obama administration will have something that might actually be of use, or a complete disaster. Anything that doesn't include a viable public option will almost certainly be a disaster.

But it won't be a disaster for the Obama administration, unless you count the fact that they tried to compromise with the far right and got screwed, the way Clinton was. It will be a disaster for all the rest of us.

The status quo means a doubling of health care costs in the next decade, millions more personal bankruptcies and ever more corporate control over what health care people are allowed, and a continuing degradation of American society and its economy.

Jon Perr, over at Crooks & Liars, described the Republican alternative on health care (the status quo) this way:

“Here, then, is the *Republican 10-Point Plan for Health Care*:

1. 50 Million Uninsured in America

2. Another 25 Million Underinsured

3. Employer-Based Coverage Plummets Below 60%

4. Employer Health Costs to Jump by 9% in 2010

5. One in Five Americans Forced to Postpone Care

6. 62% of U.S. Bankruptcies Involve Medical Bills

7. Current Health Care Costs Already Fueling Job Losses

8. 94% of Health Insurance Markets in U.S Now "Highly Concentrated"

9. Dramatic Decline in Emergency Room Capacity

10. Perpetuating Red State Health Care Failure “

Anything that doesn't radically change that status quo is doomed to failure, and will endanger millions of people in America.

Posted: July 27, 2009

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