Saturday 15 August 2009

A message to my American friends

Health care reform is one of those topics -- like global warming -- where rational debate is as common as a Panamanian golden frog. Any discussion almost invariably degenerates into ideology-driven exaggeration and fear mongering. I have seen the absurdity of the Canadian debate, and I think I can help add some perspective for my American friends.

To some in Canada, health care is a sacred enterprise that must not be tampered with. Any mention of reform immediately sends the left-wingers into a tizzy. They wave their arms and yammer on about the evils of the U.S. system and how only rich people will be able to get x-rays while the rest of us will have to sit at home dying of easily preventable maladies.

I see the same thing happening in the U.S. right now in response to Obama's health care reform plan. Republicans are comparing it to the Canadian system, and going on about how over-paid bureaucrats will decide if you're worthy of being treated. Sarah Palin, God bless her screwed up little soul, took the hyperbole to a whole new level with her talk of "death panels". ... I don't even think North Korea's health care system has death panels.

Now, I don't know the details of the Obama proposal, but I do know this: you in the U.S. do not want the Canadian system (trust me), but you will never get the Canadian system so there is no need to be afraid of it. Just like how we in Canada will never have to worry about living with the evil U.S. system, and thus have no reason to be afraid of it, or even talk about it. The U.S. and Canadian systems are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Any comparison between the two is pointless. Let me illustrate:

What you have to realize is that there is a whole world of options between the two. Private delivery of health care and universal health care are not mutually exclusive. Private insurance can exist in a publicly administered system. There are all kinds of possibilities.

Australia, for example, has universal health care and private insurance. Health care is provided by government institutions and private companies. You could go all over the world and find many other variations, many (perhaps most) of which include some form of universal health care.

Both the U.S. and Canadian systems, while completely different, are deeply flawed. They are also among the most expensive in the world. (One report that I read claimed that they are in fact the two costliest health care systems -- U.S. first, Canada second.) Thus both systems are in desperate need of change. You should not let opponents of change paralyze discussion of reform with their ideological hyperventilating. Open your minds and engage in an informed debate.

And as a person who is generally conservative, I don't mind telling you that universal health care is a good thing. Just don't do it like we do it.


The View from Seven said...

That's a good point you raise about Australia's balance between public and private, Cherenkov. It would be good for both Canadians and Americans to find out more about how that and other systems work.

However, to do that, both Canada and the U.S. have to recover from their bouts with "not invented here" syndrome. Both countries tend to be much too insular, and averse to learning from the outside world.

Sean said...

I really like your point of how we as Canadians will never have an American system and Americans will never have a Canadian system.

We (I) always get to wrapped up in dire predictions of the future to realize simply how different the two systems are. Our cultures would never allow anything substantially different from what exists now.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I only wish the MSM could offer such a balanced perspective. Our system is very flawed, as anyone who’s been in an emergency room or on a waiting list knows. But, the U.S. system is not the answer; but, there has to be a better system somewhere in the world and it’s time to start looking for solutions to this endless money pit that isn’t giving us better care. [Just to qualify, I object to money being spent, as long as were getting good value for it and are competitive with the rest of the health care systems in the world, which were not right now.] However, before this conversation can begin, someone has to tell the NDP, Liberals, Nurses unions, et al, that it's time to take the ideology out of the debate, otherwise their endless rants and screams will just help maintain the status quo, to the detriment of all Canadians. This needs to be a non-partisan issue.

Anonymous said...

From news reports this eve, the US is in a heap of shit with their system. States are cutting back , local governments can't cope.

So much for the "free market ' experiment. it has failed as bad as Communism.

Perhaps a new form of Socialism will take shape out of all this mess. A system where everyone profits.but that means, alot of bench warmers need to ante up and make a contribution.

cherenkov said...

@View: you would think that Canada would be more open to adopting elements of other systems given our smaller size and closer ties to the Commonwealth, etc.. but health care is some kind of weird religion here, and Tommy Douglas is our Allah. Any change is a sign of disrespect, punishable by stoning!

@Sean: if we're lucky we may see modest incremental changes towards a better system. It won't matter anyhow, because the asteroid is going to kill us all in 2014.

@Anon: I think you meant "I don't object...". And don't get me started on the nurse's union.

@MrNo: There's still a role for free market within the overall framework, and don't mention socialism or they won't let you across the border.

thebanana said...

"Both the U.S. and Canadian systems, while completely different, are deeply flawed."

Specifics please.

cherenkov said...

Hello Banana. Thanks for dropping by. Why are they flawed? The Canadian system is flawed because it is extremely expensive and provides relatively poor results. It's not all bad, but wait times are too high and we don't get good value for our money. The US system is flawed because, again, it is extremely expensive, and many people don't get proper health care and/or can't afford to get treated.

unclebob said...

View from Seven
"Both countries tend to be much too insular, and averse to learning from the outside world."
Respectfully suggest slightly more narrowly that both health care systems systems at the end of their respective spectrums (spectra?)tend to encourage self serving behaviour which is detrimental to the public which they purport to serve.

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