Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

Canada’s health care system and why Americans should want that shit

I want to quickly respond to the Canada-bashing that seems so rote in the US re: our public system. The media loves to cherry pick critics of the Canadian system, which, though far from perfect, as a Canadian living in the States for the past year (on my university’s insurance plan), I can say is absolutely no contest superior as a system. Canadians exist who prefer the American system, but they’re a small minority at least to a point afflicted with the-grass-is-greener syndrome (the treatment for which is, unfortunately only available in the US).

Even with university coverage, I’ve rung up more money than is comfortable on a student’s budget. Plus, were I to have an emergency outside of my local hospital (with which the university has a relationship) it’s dubious whether I would be covered at all. In Canada the threat of debt slavery doesn’t hang over my head every time I leave my neighbourhood (or city, or province…).

As a second experiential point, I’ve had to visit the emergency room once, and the wait was comparable to any experience I’ve had in Canada (in all my life, the average has probably been 2 or 3 hours, though once I had to wait 8 at a particularly crappy hospital in Montreal).

Yes, if I need an MRI for something non-debilitating or life threatening I might have to wait three to six months, but frankly… that’s fine. It’s worth it knowing that everyone has access. And if I really needed the scan or some other procedure, if it was an emergency, I would get (and have gotten) it immediately.

Here are some excerpts from a note I wrote last year about why Obama with Hillary’s health care plan would be my dream candidate. With the big health care debate looming, I think it has some relevance:

Hair is for healthcare

Some reasons why universel healthcare in the US would be the roxxors:

  • Universal health-care in the States is an incredible legacy waiting to happen. Almost half a century after he was only Premier of Saskatchewan, Tommy Douglas, the catalyst that started the chain reaction the resulted in universal health care in Canada, was voted the ‘Greatest Canadian’ in a massive national competition run by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (they don’t like him that much in Alberta, but everywhere else the mention of his name induces Canadians to go dreamy faced). He beat not only John A MacDonald and all the founding fathers, but our war prime ministers, Terry Fox, Lester B Pearson (Canadian hero for founding peacekeeping at the UN), Glenn Gould, Margaret Atwood, Joni Mitchell, Dahlia Lithwick, Jim Carrey, Mike Meyers, and Kyle’s adoptive little brother from South Park!
  • Universal health care might get Americans to chill the fuck out. The fact that I know that no matter what happens to me it’s impossible for it to come down to a choice between preventative heart surgery (or whatever) and any future dreams of higher education, supporting a family, or buying a house, is a major contributor to my ability to sleep at night.
  • The reasons that Paul Krugman routinely lays out (e.g. as an alternative to current anti-consumer market structures and for the effectiveness of collective bargaining, there’s reason to believe that it could be—as the system in Canada is—as little as half as expensive for tax payers per capita as Medicare/aid etc. is right now.)

Why do I care as a Canadian?

In accordance with reason 1, a legacy like that would give “government” Democrats (against anti-government Reaganite Republicans) something to rally around. Aside from a hostility to NAFTA (which they’re not going to seriously mess with anyway), Democrats are much more Canada friendly and, I believe, far more constructive as participants in the global sphere than Republicans, so improving their long term prospects = !

In accordance with reason 2, a chilled out American population may be a somewhat more reasonable in valuing quality of life rather than raw economic numbers (GDP and productivity per capita) as measures of good vs. bad policy. I hypothesize that suddenly the languages being spoken in Europe, Canada, etc. won’t seem so foreign.

It may also, and I grant that this is a bit of a stretch, alleviate the tension that manifests itself in the paranoia that let Iraq happen, and let Bush threaten the amazing Canadian-American legacy of sharing the longest undefended border in the world.

Finally, I may be moving to the US for school next year, and who knows what might keep me there (could be anything in the world’s most dynamic economic/academic/cultural hub). I would find the decision to stay much easier if there were universal healthcare. UPDATE: I have since moved to America and find it stressful (though cool in a lot of other ways).

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2 Responses to “Canada’s health care system and why Americans should want that shit”

  1. […] I’m giving the following its own post. This post is too long… it’s buried […]

  2. […] I’m a huge fan of universal health care (and blogged my support here), but I’m a fan of it because I think that the arguments for it can directly address the […]


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