I generally do not write diaries partly because I view this site as a discussion forum for Americans and I am an interested observer. I comment from time to time and have often been impressed by the writing skills of the various diarists. I am also fascinated by the US healthcare debate having lived in a country (Canada) which has had universal healthcare for as long as I can remember. I say that despite having recollections of the worried look on my father's face when someone in our family needed more than just a visit to the family doctor. He paid for my birth and that of my brother and sister out of pocket and I know that those bills took years to pay off. But by the mid 1960's, that worry was gone as universal healthcare was adopted in Canada. We had been moving down that road for some time before that. In 1946, the year before I was born, Premier Tommy Douglas' Cooperative Commonweath Federation (CCF/Socialist) government in Saskatchewan passed the Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act which was a major step in providing healthcare to all Saskachewan residents. Douglas is considered a Canadian icon for more than being Keifer Sutherland's grandfather. In 1957, Prime Minister Louis St Laurent's Liberal government passed the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act which was a major step in univeralizing healthcare for all Canadians. This was followed by action by one of our most underrated Prime Ministers, Mike Pearson, who passed the Medical Care Act in 1966 which in effect gave us univeral healthcare. There have been changes and enhancements along the way but these were the key steps. We tend to take it for granted but we only have to pay attention to the stories of people without healthcare coming from the US to remember just how lucky we are. Tonight I read an excellent diary from Pluto regarding the impact of states not accepting Medicare expansion. http://www.dailykos.com/... I am married to an American who has lived in Canada as long as we have been married (42 years) She still stops at the receptionist's desk after a doctors appointment to pay after a doctor's appointment and is amazed when she doesn't have to. Both she and I have been treated in our healthcare system for serious or potentially serious conditions as have members of our extended family. The care has always been efficient and world class and we do not receive a bill other than what we pay in taxes. (in my case for family coverage about $3600 per year including estimated gas and luxury tax levies) People at incomes less than mine pay less and at the lower income levels pay no income tax for healthcare. Pluto's diary reminded me of a conversation I recently had with my Teabagger American Brother in Law who said to me "give me one good reason why I should pay for someone else's healthcare" Having recently read a number of articles about Tommy Douglas and seen a documentary narrated by Paul Gross about Mike Pearson, I had an answer. I replied, "I'll give you seven" They are below the fold.
1) People constitute a country's human resources just like a country's natural resources. You agree with doing everything necessary to preserve and protect your natural resources--why wouldn't you do the same for your human resources
2) it's part of being a country--we all look out for one another
3) it's cheaper because in the end you pay anyway for emergency room treatments instead of the far more inexpensive preventative care
4) it's good for the economy. By taking the weight off if employers to provide health insurance, we reduce the cost of production and make ourselves more competitive internationally
5) it makes for a more flexible, mobile workforce when people do not have to hang on to the job they have so they won't lose healthcare
6) it meets every religious ethical standard. Christian by way of Christ's teachings regarding caring for the lesser of us etc. Islam--one of the five pillars, caring for the weak and the poor. Buddhism, Hindu etc. etc.
7) it's humane
The response was one of those typical vacant stares. Another American relative commented rather heatedly that this was socialism and that it was un American. At one point someone asked if I liked Obamacare and I replied that it was a big step forward but that I had one problem with it. He asked what it was and I replied that it was "not socialist" That pretty much ended that conversation.
This subject along with gun control and my obvious high regard for your president has basically ensured that I don''t get invited to family gatherings much anymore. So be it.
12:02 AM PT: A few further thoughts and some mythbusting
-We can choose our own doctors including specialists. Referral to a specialist is through your primary care physician and you can state a preference for specialists
-Our system is triaged so the most serious get treated first. That means that elective type surgery such as most hip and knee replacements will take longer that something like heart bypass or cancer
-Our longest wait for a specialist (my wife and I) was 4 weeks and that was for my hip surgery
-Canadians do go to the US often because they are willing to pay to have immediate service such as knee or hip imaging. Personally, I know no one who has sought medical care in the US and the stories that are reported are distorted and almost devoid of background facts.
-Many Americans seek care in Canada either because it's cheaper and they have no or inadequate health insurance or because of a range of medical specialties that are available here. (e.g. Shouldice Clinic, Hemangeoma centre of expertise at Toronto Sick Childrens Hospital)
1:50 AM PT: "Dogs are Funny" raised what should be the 8th point (I wish I had thought of it myself). Universal healthcare is more likely to catch communicable diseases at an early stage and therefore serves to prevent or at least reduce the chances of epidemics or in a more minimal but no less important sense, reduces the chances of an illness spreading through a workforce or community
1:44 PM PT: I've been gone for the day and just returned to find this diary on the rec list. Thank you for that and for all the comments
2:49 PM PT: For those of you who might have missed it, edg has posted an excellent link to the AARP debunking a number of persistent myths about the Canadian healthcare system. http://www.aarp.org/...