In the almost-30 years I have been visiting Canada on a semi-regular basis (Mom remarried and moved there in 1980), I have always been struck by the utter lack of a certain kind of fear and anxiety by its citizens. Although always subject to the unpredictable whims of euro-capitalism, there is a peace of mind that prevails in Canada which can only be attributable to one thing: an excellent system of health care – both in payment and delivery. People are not only are healthier in Canada; they feel healthier. And it shows.
It’s pretty simple, really. Here’s how it works for your average, everyday visit to the doctor. Any resident of the province of, for example, Ontario walks into the doctor’s office, showing their OHIP card. They get an office visit with the doctor. They leave. The doctor submits the visit to the Ontario Ministry of Health, probably electronically. The OMH pays the doctor. Visit, payment; visit, payment; visit, payment. All day long.
No scrutinizing and copying of health insurance cards; no giant health insurance bureaucracy poised to deny coverage; no co-pays; no high deductibles. In the bigger picture, none of the fear and anxiety of the accident or illness that will lead to financial ruin. This leaves Canadians to worry about those other important variables in life – jobs, relationships, kids, education, progress. But not health care. That is their national commitment to themselves and their future. Health care is their right.
Are there problems in the system? Sure, there are. And, when things don’t work, the political system responds and heads will roll. The enemies of health care reform in the U.S. have made sure that you’ve heard anecdotal stories about long wait times for this or that. This morning, my copy of the Toronto Star reported that a guy who was working full-time to reduce wait-times had been sacked. If there is a problem (I am not taking the U.S. wing-nuts’ word for it), this is how it is supposed to work. The effectiveness of health care delivery becomes political and things get done. Try getting some satisfaction out of a fat-cat insurance company dragging its feet approving your expensive hip replacement. Good luck with that.
As always happens when the health insurance industry is threatened in the U.S., the checkbooks are open for anyone willing to provide fodder for their lies. Canadians telling health care horror stories in the U.S. media are like anti-black African Americans and anti-feminist women – they are all extremely well paid to take the positions they take. The fact is that no Canadian in their right mind – not one – would trade their government health care system for the craziness of the U.S. "system" of social Darwinism, gold-plated doctors and giant health insurance vultures.
"It is awfully tempting – painfully so – to feel superior to the United States over its national debate, and I use the term irresponsibly, on health-care reform," writes one apparently reasonable columnist in my Globe and Mail this morning. Indeed, we are the laughing stock of the world, as loopy people paid by lobbyists or simply misled by wing-nut squawkers who know better try to besiege those in Congress brave enough to hold town hall meetings in the midst of a campaign of organized disruption. If you want to see the difference between the astroturf ridiculousness of people "fighting to get our country back" from the elected African-American guy and the real thing, try proposing the dismantling of the health care system in Canada. Then you will really see the people rise up to keep what they have.