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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.  (LINK)

"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.

Originally posted to Chuck of the North on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 08:37 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Holmes case is so very interesting... (7+ / 0-)

    ... because she herself has stated one of the only reasons why she decided to give her story to the right-wing insurance supporters is because she's so far in debt, she'll take any money she can to talk about her "story" to people.

    She wouldn't have died, or most likely wouldn't have gone permanently blind if she had waited the 3 months she was told she'd have to wait for surgery. Instead she went to Mayo, and is now $100,000 in debt, plus interest.

    •  I've known Canadians that have had massive (8+ / 0-)

      medical emergencies -- including one that had some sort of parasitic infection worthy of a HOUSE episode -- and they never had problems getting admitted into a hospital immediately.

      Not to say Canadian healthcare is perfect, or that people don't wait, but there aren't people dropping dead in the streets either.

      "You Don't Do More With Less. You Do Less with Less. That's Why it's called Less." David Simon

      by Larry Madill on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 08:47:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Far from it... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Not to say Canadian healthcare is perfect, or that people don't wait, but there aren't people dropping dead in the streets either.

        Canadians live a couple of years longer than Americans - and we have a better chance of surviving infancy, too.  So if the Canadian system is so terrible, why are we able to enjoy it longer?

        "East of the Rockies, West of the Rest...."

        by Wisewood on Fri Oct 09, 2009 at 12:21:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's even more interesting (6+ / 0-)

      The cyst in question is believed to result from a problem that arises during fetal development.  In other words she has had it her entire life.

      So the irony is, had she been in the American health insurance system, her claim could have been dismissed because it was a pre-existing condition.

    •  She also has started a lawsuit against OHIP (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Not only is she trying to recoup the money she spent to jump queue...she is also a challenging the Canadian health system of single tier care.

      AND who is helping with the lawsuit...The Canadian Constitution Federation headed by John Carpay.

      The Calgary-based Canadian Constitution Foundation, founded in 2002, opposes what it sees as the watering down of constitutional principles by governments and left-wing interest groups.


      The best part is the Canadian Constitution Foundation has charitable status in Canada. Anyone who supports their political causes gets a tax writeoff. In essence, all other taxpayers – despite their total revulsion of their goals – are having to pay for this groups political activities.

      The United states has no monopoly on right wing nut groups.

  •  I lived on and off in Toronto for seven months (4+ / 0-)

    and I think most Americans would die for a single payer system like Canada's if they actually saw how it works. Of course, that's the problem. Most Americans don't even have a passport.  Most Americans glean their info from Cable TV.

    "You Don't Do More With Less. You Do Less with Less. That's Why it's called Less." David Simon

    by Larry Madill on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 08:41:56 AM PDT

  •  Most Americans have to believe the lies because (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sagesource, snakelass, ohcanada, MaikeH

    if they didn't their lives would not function.  We have grown up being fed lies.  We are raised with a version of Stockholm Syndrome and will need much therapy to recover.  I am hoping the younger generation with more access to information and more curiosity will lead us out of our self-imposed isolation.

  •  Thank you for this. (10+ / 0-)

    I too am an Ontarian.

    I recently went through 2 months of radiation therapy at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto (one of the world's finest cancer centers.)

    Tons of consultations, MRI's, seed implants, CAT scans, and 38 Gy of radiation.

    Not to mention meds.

    Total cost to me and my family : $0

    In the US I'd be bankrupted.

    I get "suaviter in modo", Mr President. May we now have some "fortiter in re"?

    by tapu dali on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 08:47:01 AM PDT

  •  It's just what the right does (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bellatrys, ohcanada, Larry Madill

    they find random instances of something happen and blow it up into it being a system wide thing. The United State rations care MORE than any country in the world already, it just does so based on money and influence.

  •  Canadian medical research is 2nd to none (4+ / 0-)

    Banting discovered insulin. Until Canada's recent Conservative govt. cacked it up, Canada invented diagnostic medicine, and was the sole supplier of isotopes that enabled it.

    There's even an AIDs vaccine underway up there!

    If apes evolved from humans, why are there still humans?

    by Bobs Telecaster on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 08:54:03 AM PDT

  •  beautiful work! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bellatrys, snakelass

    The important fact is the order in which you are treated is based on the urgency of situation, not the size of your wallet.

    THIS is true.
    When hubby went in for his appendix he was in the emergency room like less than five minutes. Triaged soon and on the operating table within the half hour.
    Of course he didn't get the private room provided by his insurance because there were no private rooms available but, who the hell cared!   He went in, went on and was into a room being tending by the gold medal winning nurse to whom he had just the week before handed her degree in a different kind of gown than he was now wearing.

    It is a great story to tell.
    University president tests the education given to the nurse by his own institution. ha ha
    Plus he had to put up with Aggie jokes from the anesthesiologist that knew he was a Longhorn just as he was going under.
    "What's that I heard, you went to A&M?" Arrrrrrgh........ZZZZZZZZZZ

  •  One simply has to abandon the notion (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bellatrys, snakelass, Eloise, MuskokaGord

    of delivering health care to the ill, injured and expectant as a profit opportunity for insurance companies.

    This dairy is an excellent antidote to last nights installment of "The Story" on NPR which featured an American family drived to financial and emotional ruin by having slightly pre-mature twins and for-profit insurance company health care.

    American taxpayers provide universal single payer healthcare to other countries through foreign aid payments.

    The stangle hold of lobbyists over public policy has yet to be addressed by the Obama administration. Call out the profiteers and ghouls by name and stop taking their dollars for the privilege of short changing the public weal.

    Stop pretending the opposition to real health care reform is based in "legitimate opposition".

  •  My dad is in Ontario and won't leave (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He loves his healthcare, and can't afford to move back to the states because of it.

    Although I have helped him out once with some dental expenses, his healthcare is FREE.  And because of his age and (lack of) wealth, so are his prescriptions.  FREE.  That's a concept we need to learn here.

    At 77 years old, he's NOT afraid that the government will decide he's too old to cure when he gets sick.

    If you want to know the real answer: Just ask a Mom.

    by tacklelady on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 09:33:32 AM PDT

  •  Is it true that, in Canada... (0+ / 0-)
    ...the health care system differs by Province? I've heard but have never been able to confirm that each Province has its own health care program and that they differ from one another. This helps to explain why some Canuckians have different experiences than others.
    •  The Canada Health Act (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "The Canada Health Act (CHA) is a piece of Canadian federal legislation, adopted in 1984, which specifies the conditions and criteria with which the provincial and territorial health insurance programs must conform in order to receive federal transfer payments under the Canada Health Transfer. These criteria require universal coverage (for all "insured persons") for all "medically necessary" hospital and physician services, without co-payments."

      "The Canada Health Act requires coverage for all medically necessary care provided in hospitals or by physicians; this explicitly includes diagnostic, treatment and preventive services. Coverage is universal for qualifying Canadian residents, regardless of income level. Services of non-physicians working within hospitals are covered; but provinces can, but are not forced to, cover services by non-physicians if provided outside hospitals."

      "In summary, the system is known as a "public system" due to its public financing, but is not a nationalized system such as the UK's NHS; most medicare services are provided privately.[5]

      An additional complexity is that, because health care is deemed to be under provincial jurisdiction, there is not a "Canadian health care system". As noted, most providers are private, and may or may not coordinate their care. Publicly-funded insurance is organized at the level of the province/territory; each manages its own insurance system, including issuing its own healthcare identification cards (a list of the provincial medical care insurance programs is given at the end of this entry).

      Once care moves beyond the services required by the Canada Health Act - for which universal comprehensive coverage applies - there is inconsistency from province to province in the extent of publicly-funded coverage, particularly for such items as outpatient drug coverage and rehabilitation, as well as vision care, mental health, and long-term care, with a substantial portion of such services being paid for privately, either through private insurance, or out-of-pocket.[6][7] Eligibility for these additional programs may be based on various combinations of such factors as age (e.g., children, seniors), income, enrollment in a home care program, or diagnosis (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cancer, cystic fibrosis)."

      "Nowadays we are all of us so hard up, that the only pleasant things to pay, are compliments." -Oscar Wilde

      by MuskokaGord on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 10:15:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Thank you very much. Would you agree that this may account for some of the more anti-Canuck comments with regard to health care coverage that have been touted so publicly by anti-reform forces in the USA? For example, we had a young woman appear at a "town hall" that I attended (diary HERE) who said that her parents had moved here when she was a child and that they would never return because of the horrible state of affairs in Canada with regard to health care.

        From my diary:

        Finally, one young woman declared that she was from Canada and had "first hand knowledge" of how terrible the health care system is there, though she moved to the USA when she was a child. "The city of Grand Rapids has ten MRI machines," she declared. "There are only ten in ALL of Ontario!" The fact that this is completely false and is off by a factor of ten or more did not seem to matter at all to most in the audience who cheered loudly as she left the front of the room.

        •  Canadian Healthcare "Bashers" (0+ / 0-)

          Most "Bashers" do not understand that 99.9% of the costs of US "DiseaseCare" that is bankrupting US citizens, while allowing thousands to die,

          is completely covered in the Canada Health Care Act... as a right to all Canadians.

          Any discomfort for waiting for non-emergent treatment, often comes from the "large wallet" elite, who feel that they should come first.

          Unfortunately we have our share of the so-called corporatist lobbyists, who are trying to "gin" the system and bring in more privatization to serve the interests of the large insurance and pharma companies.

          "Nowadays we are all of us so hard up, that the only pleasant things to pay, are compliments." -Oscar Wilde

          by MuskokaGord on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 10:37:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Chuck, you leave Republicans with one choice: (0+ / 0-)

    "You Lie!"

    Great diary.

    Some people make you want to change species

    by ulookarmless on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 10:17:38 AM PDT

  •  Comparative data: Canada is better (0+ / 0-)

    Check out this Canadian site which shows the 2008 comparative data on 15 or so different "First World" health care systems. Canada gets a "B." The US gets a "D."

    Auriandra Wabasha MN

    by Auriandra on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 09:16:44 PM PDT

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