I am United States citizen who has permanently resided in Canada since 1968. I am fortunate to have health coverage under the Ontario Hospital Insurance Program (OHIP). It does have limitations. It does not cover prescription drugs, some medical procedures (such things as vasectomy reversal or cosmetic surgery). I do have additional insurance through my employer to cover this gap (prescriptions, eye care, dental).
I like my heath care system. It has served and continues to serve my family and I very well. Indeed, 86% of my fellow Canadians were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with health-care services overall (report by Health Canada, entitled Healthy Canadians)
I still have a vast family that lives in the United States and every summer we have a family reunion at a campground in the state of Michigan. This year was no different.
As we were roasting marshmallows, the topic drifted into health care and the current debate. I was amazed by the general misinformation about the Canadian system, but what really made me angry is how the right wing opposition to reform has blatantly misled and lied to the American Public.
Fortunately my relatives are reasonable people and the discussion with them gave them a better understanding of the value and limitations of the Canadian health care system. At least I am still invited to next year’s reunion.
However, when Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tn) suggested that when it comes to health care, Canada and France have a "parasitic relationship" towards the United States, I needed to find a way to push back. Even if no one reads this, I will at least feel better for venting.
So Bob, let me enlighten you on some of the many contributions countries you call "parasites" developed. Canada brought the world insulin, developed bone marrow transplantation, and conducts more lung transplant surgeries than the United States.
Two French scientists were awarded a Nobel Prize for the discovery of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg identified human papilloma virus as a cause of cervical cancer.
I could go on...
Bob, are you aware that nine of the twenty most profitable pharmaceutical manufacturers are from the United States? Bob, do you know that the rest are in countries that have universal health care systems that you oppose?
Bob, are you aware of the saying "it’s better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to open you mouth and dispel all doubts"?
Another common refrain belched by Republican Senators is "If the Canadian system is so great, why do so many Canadians come to the US for medical treatment?"
Yes, it is true that some Canadians do seek treatment in the United States, but it is not as pervasive as the opponents to health care reform would like you to believe.
This is a quote from "Phantoms in the snow: Canadians’ use of health care services in the United States". This was a study by Katz SJ, Cardiff K, Pascali M, Barer ML, Evans RG.
"Results from these sources do not support the widespread perception that Canadian residents seek care extensively in the United States. Indeed, the numbers found are so small as to be barely detectible relative to the use of care by Canadians at home."
It is also important to consider the reasons for Canadians seeking treatment in the United States. How many seek treatment in the U.S. for reasons of confidentiality? Such things as mental illness, substance abuse, and other problems they may want to keep confidential from their local physician, family, or employer.
I am sure everyone remembers Canadian Shona Holmes, who was featured in an ad for Patients United Now:
_"If I had relied on my government for health care, I'd be dead." Holmes, showing an image labeled as a brain tumor.
Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, used Ms. Holmes story and singled out Kingston General Hospital in Ontario as a prime example of why Americans should be afraid of a Canadian-like system... overwhelming delays in treatment.
However Mitch decided to overstate (lie?) rather than seek the truth. Ironically, I feel the best rebuttal was made by Canadian Conservative Senator Hugh Segal in an interview with CNN. Here is a link to the story.
Let’s take a closer look at Ms. Holmes case. The reality is the Mayo Clinic diagnosed Holmes with Rathke's cleft cyst. She never had cancer and technically, she didn't even have a tumor. It was a benign cyst that possibly threatened her eyesight. I state possibly because Holmes has declined to release her medical records to verify her claims.
Above all, this condition is not known to be fatal and the Mayo Clinic makes no claim that her life was ever in danger. To be fair, it does state her vision was in danger, but again, by declining to release her medical records, it is not possible to verify "the wait" or circumstances for her care in the Canadian system.
Canadians may have to wait for care. Most can understand the anxiety that creates, particularly if the issue is serious. This is the "trade-off". The Canadian single payer system that guarantees coverage for all does result in people having to wait to be treated for conditions that may be serious but are not believed urgent.
The important fact is the order in which you are treated is based on the urgency of situation, not the size of your wallet.
Conversely, just because you have a bigger wallet does not mean you get your hip replacement surgery while a 3 year-old waits to receive critical heart surgery.
This is the sacrifice I am willing to make.