10 November 2009

The "Eh" in Medicare

An Aussie and a Canuck react in horror to some pretty rightwing ideas on US Heath care.

The caricature of 'socialized medicine' is used by corporate interests to confuse Americans and maintain their bottom lines instead of patients' health.
Michael M Rachlis in
The LA Times

Courage, my friends; 'tis not too late to build a better world.
- Tommy Douglas

So I'm Canadian. Despite the minor ambiguities of cultural and social identity that arise from my nationality it's a pretty damn good thing to be. Like if I had to choose again - no problem, Canadian all the way, thanks, gimme my unicorn festooned passport and away I'll go.

Being a Canadian around Americans has always been a mix of fun and good humoured irritation. The irritation comes from constantly having to explain that no, we don't like in igloos (although sometimes to fuck with them I will play along and talk about Flossie, my sleddog) and yes, we have large cosmopolitan cities with millions of people and no, I don't say 'eh' (except when around other Canucks who have thick accents - it rubs off) and wow, it is amazing that I sound like I am from the West Coast (because I AM, bozo.)

One point that Americans I've met have always been educated to some degree about is Canada's healthcare - at least enough to know that we have it and they want it. Even if they didn't have any idea that a good chunk of their famous people are, in fact, Canucks (here is a nifty list) they absolutely knew about our free medicine. Yep - we pay more taxes in Canada, yes we are all a bunch of liberal, swingin' sixties pinko commie bleeding hearts and yes it is minus forty Celsius in Winnipeg in the winter (I've been there, crying icy tears on Portage Ave) but we have free universal healthcare that everyone has equal access to. Hallelujah and Amen, brothers and sisters.

But lately something has changed. And I know what it is.

American cable news is pretty effin predictable - and it is the best indicator of the next shifty move of the government. The news is slanted in a way that appeals to the uneducated lowest common denominator by scaring the shit out of them.
"Ma, someone on the teevee says Iran is bad."
"Ma, someone on the teevee done say that Iran hates America and personally hates m'freedoms!"
"Ma, someone on the teevee says that Iran's gonna 9/11 us!"
"Ma, we gots ta go killify Iran!"
And so on.

Network news is simply another arm of the government spin-machine. It serves as a warning bell of the next controversial action the US is gonna take. Therefore, if you hear rumblings on CNN about how 'bad' X is when X used to be 'good' that means that sometime soon X is going to be enemy number one. The subtle process of discrediting what the public should now view as bad starts early, and the rest of the world watches in horror as we see people actually fall for it.

Which brings me to how healthcare is viewed by Americans now. I had the pleasure of meeting dozens of awesome yanks in Fiji and universal medicare was the hot topic. Wasn't it true that I had to wait days for emergency care? Didn't I have access to only the most substandard doctors? Why were so many Canadians coming up to the US for care when in Canada it is free? All evidence that the CNN/Fox News/MSNBC news machine is already hard at work discrediting the Canadian system to prevent Americans from really thinking about universal healthcare as an amazing thing that would benefit everyone. They are being force fed pap about Soviet era bread queues for doctors appointments and poor quality services. As the manager at Sephora on Hollywood Blvd informed me and Lou yesterday "when I wanna go see a doctor I wanna go to mine right away - not like in Canada." We couldn't even correct his misinformation (I go to whatever doctor I want, whenever I want to- and it is free)- it was too frustrating.

I am a Canadian. What the news is telling you about our system? IT'S NOT TRUE.

An infuriating but enlightening conversation took place with two young twenty-somethings from New York. The topics ranged from immigration (they hate those illegals) to schooling (you simply must go to a private school) and of course, the giant pink elephant in the room - healthcare.
"Why should I have to pay for people who smoke and eat KFC?" Said Mr. NY.
"Well, if you think KFC is so bad why doesn't your country make it really expensive, or even illegal?"
"You can't do that! People have a right to eat what they want!"
"What about the right to not die of a heart condition? Or the right to not go millions of dollars in debt because you drew the unlucky straw and got a sick baby?" I countered.
"It doesn't work that way - healthcare is not a right!" He shouted.
"Well, in Canada it is. And I couldn't be happier."
"What prevents your doctors from rushing people through their offices, if they make less money?" I looked at him, baffled.
"It's not about money. It's about helping sick people. Somewhere along the way, the American system has forgotten that."

Listen, you won't be able to get two Canadians who agree on healthcare. Our system has flaws - some bigger than others - and it does need some measure of reform. There are even some people trying to change it into a two tiered plan (which is very un-Canadian and jerky, I say) but the basic point is that ever since Tommy Douglas (the 'the father of medicare' - a few years ago we voted him as our 'Greatest Canadian') empowered us with the notion that our lives are worth more than medical bills and exorbitant fees it has changed the social consciousness. We are worth it. We deserve it. It is a right.

On the other side of the border, those with insurance in America seem to view visits with umpteen specialists, a multitude of scans, unnecessary procedures and immediate action as a right - yet studies still show that we as Canadians are significantly healthier and more satisfied with our care. We also do not have the right to sue our doctor (the idea would never even cross my mind) so that keeps costs lower for the taxpayer - (s)he aren't weighing out potential lawsuits in their head as they treat their patient.

If you don't believe me, this article from the LA Times is what I was reading this morning in sunny Los Feliz, Hollywood that spawned this train of thought. I really love the statistic that we in Canada spend 10% of our economy on healthcare, compared to the US's spend of 16% - the huge increase in spending still leaving 50 million citizens without insurance. Human rights aside, from an economic standpoint universal healthcare makes more sense!

A brief message to the Yanks out there: Listen, guys - your 'system'? It's broke. It needs to be fixed. You are the only First World country without free healthcare. And your news is lying to you. Talk to a Canadian or Brit about what we have before you let Glenn Beck tell you how to feel and shock you with half truths and horror stories about the Healthcare bill passing in the House.

Taking care of people lesser off than you does not make you a socialist - it makes you a good person. There's a difference.

And even if you don't choose to cover all of your citizens and residents equally - well, whatever. That's your choice. But for the love of God - quit dragging Canada's system through the mud by using false information! This is not about Canada - like usual - it's about you.

See, in Canada we even have dedicated Leprosy Sections! Modern and free heath care!
(Just fucking with you - this is in India....)

PS - I just want to clarify that I do not think Americans are any more stupid than other folks - trust me, I have been all over the world and can attest to the fact that people are stupid equally everywhere.


Anonymous said...

Tommy Douglas? You fuckin rock! Totally awesome of U as a young Canadian to recognize!

...and fuck Glen Beck! If Cable news in America wants to give idiots like that a voice?, (and they do...look at Rush), thats great! Because most people are not Idiots and exposure to these clowns only helps to betray ignorance and intolerance.

OH! And what the fucks with the "What the eff's"? (just sayin)

Elizabeth said...

I love this post! Being American, a poor college student, and uninsured myself, I would love to be able to get health care. But, whenever I bring up how good it would be for everyone to be able to see a doctor, people always say how evil and bad universal health care is and how much our taxes will go up (even my own family members are against "socialism", as they call it). It's not socialism to want everyone to have equal opportunities. Why do we listen to the news anymore, anyways...goodness knows I don't; I usually just roll my eyes whenever they talk about their favorite topics.

Sproglet said...

Brits constantly argue over the NHS (National Health Service) over here too.

The phrases 'taxes are too high' and 'the NHS is shite, we want MORE MORE MORE!!' are far too often uttered in the same sentence.

Yes, ok, some parts of the NHS are a bit shit, but people totally take for granted the fact that they have free and available healthcare.

Lets go back to the dark days pre WWI for a month and see how everyone likes that

...Mrs.P! said...

I was just thinking about this last night, about how the Medicare system in Australia might need some work, and could be better, but I'm damn glad we have it! No system is perfect but any system that gives all people access to health care, no matter what their social status, has got to be a good thing. I can see any doctor when I need to, and the most I'll pay is $50 bucks if the doctor doesn't bulk-bill...which I can then have re-imbursed straight into my bank account. I am lucky enough that I can afford private health insurance, but if I ever had to forfeit that at least I could still get treatment, rather than just die because I can't even afford to see a doctor let alone get medicine without taking out a loan! I so don't get why the Yanks are so opposed to looking after their own country-men when their so keen to 'look after' any other country!

The Bug said...

As a person from the U.S. surrounded by folks who are against healthcare reform, let me just say that the flaw in everyone's logic is believing that people actually care about other people. Oh, they talk a good game, but when it comes right down to it they put so many conditions on their care (that person smokes! that person is on welfare! that person isn't like us! that person is illegal!) that they can't even fathom helping them. They really fundamentally only care about their own healthcare & their own pocketbook.

Bitter much? Hell yeah!

Andrea said...

Great post! I get free healthcare, but only because my husband is in the military. Why can't the rest of my country see that a model for universal healthcare is already in the USA and is working?? Let's apply it nationwide!

WV: shikstra--Glenn Beck and Fox are full of shikstra.

Bookworm said...

I agree with Sproglet, we bitch and moan about the state of the NHS, but we wouldn't want to be without it.
America's in the dark ages if 50 million unable to get access to healthcare is acceptable.
Yet another interesting article Violet, keep them coming!

Genie of the Shell said...

Thank you, Canadian neighboreeno. I hope (optimistically) that someday soon, the U.S. will get with the program and become as modern and civilized as our fellow "developed" nations. Currently, we in the U.S. have excessive rates of infant mortality, preventable diseases, illiteracy, the common stupids, and wild-chimpanzee-style vicious attitudes toward both our fellow Americans and, even harsher, toward anyone who is not a U.S. citizen.

As someone who works for a nonprofit to create social justice in Michigan, it's frustrating. But I keep reminding myself that here in America, many people don't grow up with the same privileges I had--a good education, proper nutrition, parents with teeth and brains. I can't expect other Americans who grew up in this hateful, unhealthy nation to be smart and emotionally and mentally capable of making ethical and wise choices.

But I do think that health reform is going to squeak through Congress, and it will be a step toward a healthier America, where human life is valued and kids get a chance to grow up healthy and respected. Then we will produce generations of Americans who are more intelligent, healthy (physically, mentally, emotionally), and one day, we will stop blaming the pinko Canadians, South Park-style, for all our problems and actually do something to make our home and the world a better place. Then, instead of being fearful or envious of other cultures, we can actually learn from them and cooperate. Either that, or the apocalypse is nigh.

My apologies in advance if the U.S. doesn't get our shiz together and drags everyone down the crapper with us.

*jean* said...

it's really all about intellectual laziness and being a religous+political lemming....oh stay puff marshmallow men, please lead us over the edge of the right wing abyss into the morally bankrupt unknown...we can't think for ourselves...it's all about us and we take it, hook, line & sinker...thank you for trying to set the "liberal media" records straight...

Cat said...

Thank you! American here, and it shocks me how many people here bitch and moan about universal healthcare. I'm one of the lucky folks who does have insurance, and I fail to see why it's a bad thing. Why it's taboo to plunk down money on that and not on an unjustified war is beyond me. I kind of wish the government could sue Fox News for libel considering how many outright lies they spew. It's so far out of hand it's frightening.

kanmuri said...

Amen to that!

BTW Japan is another First World country that doesn't have free health care. Many people are dying because they can't afford the government based insurance. But Japan is good at hiding problems, so no one knows about it outside. PR pros.

Marilee said...

Hi V, Hey did anything ever come of your quest for the job at gap adventures?

Yessica said...

AMEN. As a Cheesehead Yank living in Iceland, I derive great pleasure in telling GOP-types about the health care I enjoy in this evil little socialist island. It's not perfect (in a nation of only 300,000 people we don't have the most fascinating specialists) but it's good enough to give Iceland the lowest infant mortality rates and among the highest life expectancies in the world. My Fox News-obsessed dad was in shock when I told him that my tonsillectomy was performed only a few weeks after my initial appointment and it cost me under $100. He was certain that I would have to wait six months. ("like Canada"

And another thing -- who doesn't love watching the Colbert Report and Daily Show coverage of the big, fat, red-faced people hollering and embarrassing themselves (and the entire nation I must add)at those town hall events? By golly, it seems that the people MOST in need of health care reform are the ones fighting it the most -- with their big ol' KFC butts stuffed into some stretchy Walmart pants.

As soon as Glenn Beck, O'Reilly, and Limbaugh die of heart attacks (which, judging by the looks of them and their agitated mannerisms, is probably soon) then this debate will quiet down a bit.

When I move back from Iceland, can I just skip the US and move to Canada instead? P.S. Good use of a Bushism with "killify"!

Grant said...

The solution is clear, both systems have attributes that the other envy but are mutually exclusive. Cant be the best and univeral too. so to avoid mortality the canuck solution is better cuz at least u will see someone b4 u die. in the states the person who will save ur life can do it now if its covered by ur HMO.

So we need a system that has a base coverage for all and private for the more equal.

Dont kid urself canada already has a 2 tier system for athletes, politicos and those in the inside. do u think for one sec the leaders dont already have their flu shot(dont get me started).

But for the poor schlubb who will loose his livelihood cuz he cant get the back surgery he needs for 2years, wtf. I had a pt that needed shoulder surgery. If he doesnt get in within 3 months scare tissue forms and he will never be able to use it at work. The canadian system doesnt allow examination, MRI, revisit to specialist and surgery to happen within 18 months minimum = permanent disability and ultimately greater cost to society. He went to the states - 6 g's later cant afford to eat but he's waving the olympic torch.

So like gay marriage that eventually happened here bcuz it is the right thing to do, so will a real 2 tier system. As for the eagle nation everything and nothing is possible - i know i watch the news.

Violet Dear said...

Uncle Grant - I am so against a two tier system! Everybody should wait equally, and if we need to fix the system we need to fix the WHOLE system for EVERYONE - otherwise we just end up Americans.

Violet Dear said...

....Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

First: What Genie of the shell said.
Second: Uncle Grant, your heart is in the right place...but...U just havent thought it all the way through.
And finally: Violet is wise.

Em Dash said...

I suspect a lot of the junk about wait times with the Canadian system is just that... junk... my limited experience: I had something bizarre happen to me, and I required a visit to a specialist, a CT scan, and an ultrasound. They were all done within a month of the initial visit. I paid $0 for this and determined that I had no lasting nerve or brain tissue damage. Yay! This was in Vancouver.

Might be different in rural areas. But wouldn't it in Butthole, pop. 30, Arkansas, as well?

PS - my word verification was "blerp."

Somchai said...

In my town unemployment is high, we are the working class and the recession has hit hard. When people get sick they lose their house and then they lose their life. We hold fund raisers to pay for chemo therapy down at the bar, potlucks. A hundred dollars won't pay for chemo, so we move to a hotel, and die. Again and again and again. I watch this happen year in and year out.

Wages stagnant for 30 years. Outside of town McMansions on the prarie. Doctors and biochemists pulling in the big bucks from those of us who have insurance through work.


Sometimes charity pays for the doctors for little kids, often it's too late.


a.mae.zed said...

First, compare the population of the two countries...a lot more peeps in the U.S. to give health care to. The problem with the system might have to do with greed, but also has to do with the number of people we need to cover. Canada is cool, but we still have highly desirable places to live like California, Hawai'i and NYC just to name a few hence one reasons for higher population.

Second, why is it called "Universal Healthcare" is there aliens with this coverage?

Third, speaking of aliens we are not all against illegal aliens and we are not all dummies who believe everything the T.V. tells us.

Last, Canadians' healthcare still ranks relatively low according to the "World health Organization". Maybe if you were French you could point more fingers, but your post was cute.

Violet Dear said...

The population comment confuses me, mostly because it makes no sense? More people= more taxes and infrastructure....

wanderingwacky said...

I think our system has it's flaws. But let me tell you about my first daughter. When she was born she was diagnosed with a genetic condition. Had I lived in the States, she would have died almost immediately, seeing as I was unemployed and would not have had health insurance. She needed a heart surgery 3 days after she was born. She also had a multitude of other health issues, for which we never had to wait for necessary tests or surgeries. I am convinced that had I been an American, all of this would not have been available to me. So here's to Universal Healthcare. May it last forever. I will happily pay taxes to ensure children (and adults) won't suffer and die because they're too broke to pay.

Stephanie said...

We may not have true universal health care like say, France, but we're a million times better than the US. We may have to wait six months for a test that we could get the same day in the states, but when doctors feel there is something that seriously needs attention, you get it right away.

I just can't imagine being told that no, sorry, go home and die, you can't afford to be kept alive. It just boggles my mind.

I have nothing against paying for medical services, I want a two tier system. Those that can afford to pay can pay and get things done quickly, and it takes a bit of the load off the rest of the system so those who can't afford to pay are seen sooner.

But Canada does need to reevaluate our own health care system and move towards a more true universal system, like France has. Just had a baby? Here's a nanny, no charge. Crippled, but still need to get around? Have a wheelchair/scooter/car on the government.

Or can we at least get free eye and dental care too? I can't afford either. I just had my first eye exam in three years, and I see the dentist maybe, maybe once a year for a cleaning. Luckily I have perfect teeth and I only had a slight prescription change, paying for contacts still took up the last of a paycheck and my glasses are a old strength that makes everything slightly blurry.

If only our government would stop throwing the money into a pit and rather try and change things.

But still, at least if I get seriously ill I won't be told too bad, so sad, make sure your will is in order.