Over at the Buddha Diaries Peter Clothier has launched a campaign for all Americans who want to join in regarding the health care situation in the United States.
A lot of times there is the feeling that individuals cannot do much alone to influence the powers that be to act in the best interests of a given population. But sometimes there are ideas that can bring people together in a common action for just that purpose.
Peter’s simple action plan is available to everyone. Check it out at High Noon, 09/01/09: A Health Care March on Washington–Close to Home… and who knows you might meet some new friends while you’re at the post office.
A North of the Border Viewpoint on the Healthcare Debate
Thus far I’ve not said anything in this blog about this situation since, hey it’s not my country why should I care? That’s not really my viewpoint. But it is the kind of thinking that prevents a lot of communication that could be beneficial from happening.
True, America is not my country but in the interest of free trade (NAFTA) I am willing to freely trade my opinion-not even trade, distribute it-gratis to anyone who wants it.
With my little red book, the Canadian passport (which is actually blue covered and not red), I enjoy the privilege of universal health care. Now I know the American plan currently under discussion is not a socialist plan such as I am enrolled in but simply an option that will allow millions of currently uninsured to access health care. That people would be against that absolutely boggles the mind but then a lot of things go on that boggle the mind.
Many commentators have tried to compare the American situation and current proposal to the Canadian (or Swedish or French or German or Swiss or…) system. They draw a few extreme stories from the media and project in some fanciful way that these situations are the norm. If these stories are in the media then clearly they are not the norm. They are NEWS. Which means they are odd occurrences, anomalies, outrageous situations that must be addressed. So odd in fact that they draw the attention of the media and often ignite protests.Yes we protest in Canada if people DON’T get health care.
So what is the norm then in a health care system which is government run?
Here’s a few of the things I’ve read in the media that have been said about Canada’s system that I want to address.
1. The government will choose my doctor for me.
I can go to any doctor I want. Some have a full slate of patients and aren’t taking new ones but this is true anywhere. The government doesn’t require I register my choice of doctor with them. They don’t care about that. For a minor issue I can go to any number of walk in clinics, for FREE, and have it attended to. For a major issue (like a heart attack or such) I can go to any emergency ward and have it taken care of. Emergency wards here operate on a triage system so if it is not immediately life threatening there may be a bit of a wait. I went to an emergency ward one time when I broke my foot at a karate practice. I waited about half an hour til a doctor was available. It was not a big deal. I got the x-rays right there and the whole thing took about 2 hours total by the time I walked out on crutches. The x-rays and information were then sent on to my regular doctor for follow-up. Everything in the health care system is integrated so communication between doctors, hospitals, specialists, pharmacies and other health services is fairly smooth. I am very happy I don’t have to deal with an insurance system at each of these points of contact and get their permission!
2. I won’t have access to specialists.
If you live in a smaller town there won’t be many specialists, this is true everywhere. But there are plenty of specialists available and referrals are easy from either a family doctor or even a walk-in clinic. Some specialists, like dermatologists you can book yourself. I have plenty of family members who see specialists of their choice at their convenience.
3. I will have to wait for operations.
Last month my aunt (age 68) had a heart attack. She got an operation for a heart valve transplant within a week. She had to first be tested and stabilized. My mother had the same operation 11 years ago and my other aunt (they are all sisters) had the same one also. My dad had a cancer operation a couple of years ago almost immediately after the biopsy came back.
There are waiting lists for non-emergency surgery like hip or knee replacements. For elective surgery there are also lists. I had an elective surgery some years ago and I waited about 3 months but it was in no way life threatening or anything so it wasn’t a problem. Cosmetic surgery isn’t covered unless it involves a health problem or is reconstructive in nature.
4. The government puts an age limit on services.
My mom is 87 and my dad is 79 and they both get the same services as they always did. Maybe even better. Like I said my dad had a cancer surgery only a couple of years ago. If either of them needed a heart transplant I don’t know if they would be eligible health-wise, and that is the criteria not age, and more importantly I don’t think either of them would go for it. We have sat down and talked about many of these end of life things.
5. Old people will be urged towards choosing euthanasia since services will be cut at a certain age. (This is the death panel thing.)
This is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard. We don’t have end of life counseling here and I wish we did. I have a will, a living will, have made my wishes known for disposal of my body after death (cremation) and am an organ donor. I had to do all this myself. I wish the government would put out a kit or something to get all this done at one time. My parents also have the same thing as we have talked about that. I think that some of these lunatics who are putting forward this euthanasia idea are thinking about some old cultural notion that the Inuit put their old people out on ice floes or the like. I remember hearing something like that when I was a kid. It is so not true. My cousin lived for many years in Tuktoyaktuk ( here’s a map-its way up near the top) and adopted a number of Inuit kids. The old people are incredibly valued and respected there.
6. Taxes will be astronomical.
Taxes are high in Canada no doubt about it. But it’s cheaper than having to sell my house to get an operation! And who the hell wants to go out and do their own paving on the street in front of their house or on the highway. I don’t understand this phobia about taxes that Americans seem to have. I’d rather throw my portion into the pot and have the government handle all that stuff like utilities, infrastructure, health care, child protection, policing, citizenship, labor regulation and the whole gamut of stuff they do rather than try to do all or any of it myself. Sure some of it is not done according to my individual tastes and I do rail on about it, but I do appreciate the “nanny” approach much more than the “tough love” of corporate brutes and their lobbyist hordes or a religious or military junta.
Anyways thats just some of the stuff about government run health care systems that I wanted to give a perspective on.
So check out Peter’s proposal about action on the health care system. If I lived there I would do it.