Sunday, August 02, 2009

We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us


A recent poll found that Canadians are feeling more positive about the US: 68% of Canadians view the US favorably, compared to 55% two years ago.

This surprises me, because our little country is taking a mighty drubbing in American political circles and media these days. They have decided that our approach to health care is shite. It's not just the health care lobby and Republicans who are describing Canadian health care as a failed system: even many pro-reform Democrats are saying ignorant, negative things about Canadian health care.

Americans aren't just critical of our health care system. They're not just disdainful. To hear some pundits, our health care system is the boogie man: the health care equivalent to the Axis of Evil. We're the North Korea of the health care debate - the Iran, the Sadaam Hussein, the Hitler. We're the Red Menace. Our health care mistakes must be avoided At All Cost.

If you believe US television, Canada is a hotbed of commie craziness where zombyized citizens sit in hospital hallways, desolate in cracked plastic chairs, waiting for death while government bureaucrats shuffle stacks of paper and discuss union action. And we have crap quality drugs, too. Even so-called balanced stories leave the impression that wait times for medical procedures are peculiar to Canada, while in reality there are wait times in both systems.

The only safe haven for sick Canadians, according to many pundits, is the free world's leader and beacon: the United States, where we flock by the million to buy the best health care in the world.

My second cousin Bubba in Memphis even called my mother to ask how we survive it.

There isn't any reasoning with the Canada-bashers...



But for the record: the World Health Organization has ranked Canada significantly higher on both the level of health care service and the overall health of citizens.

The life expectancy in Canada is 80.7 years, compared to 78.1 in the US. For every 1,000 live births in Canada, 5.0 infants die; in the US, it's 6.7. A recent study found that 92% of Canadians are happy with their primary health care.

Government-run health care is also much more cost efficient. Canada spends US$3,895 per person on health care; Americans spend US$7,290. Narrowing that down to government spending, the Canadian government spends US$2,120 and the US government spends US$2,724 per person. And no, the discrepancy is not due to malpractice, which accounts for less than half of one percent of US spending. Universal health care hasn't left us without doctors: there are roughly the same number of doctors per capita in Canada and the US (2.2 per thousand in Canada; 2.4 per thousand in the US).

Compared to Canada, "U.S. residents are one third less likely to have a regular medical doctor, one fourth more likely to have unmet health care needs, and are more than twice as likely to forgo needed medicines." The US has 45 million uninsured citizens and 16 million who are under-insured.

All indicators prove that Canada has better health care than the US. And yet Canada has nowhere near the best health care in the world: most European countries do a better job than we do.

The larger issue is the appalling level of public discourse in the United States. The odious health care debate is just one example. Another example: This deeply racist country elects its first black president, and when a distinguished black scholar who's a friend of his is roughed up by cops in his own home, Obama is pilloried for speaking up about it?!

But I'm not interested in that right now. What I'm steamed about is why Canadians aren't mad as hell about this relentless slagging of our health care system. Sure, we'll never convince them south of the border, but there should be a furious dialog in this country about being the target of ignorant and malicious defamation of our national character. We are damn lucky that most of the time Americans forget we exist; we can't let them redefine our reality. That American koolaid is something we don't want to drink.

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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have to say, that for the first time in a long time,I think Canadians are feeling sympathy for the US citizens. They see Americans struggle to get something we already have and treasure, see the chicanery practiced by healthcare opponents, and know that it's going to be tough.

It also doesn't hurt that so far, Obama seems to be holding back most of the lions he's in the cage with...

Tomm said...

Yappa,

Obama's election has increased the positive Canadian vibe with the US. I'm surprised you are surprised.

I have a question though, the US is our best ally, our neighbor, a cultural mirror, and home to the vast majority of our exports. That being said, why wouldn't Canadian's feel good about American's? In comparison to any other nation on this planet, they are by the far and away our closest friend.

WesternGrit said...

It's the Obama effect. They are our "best friends", but I too am appalled by the ignorance of their outright lies about our system of healthcare (which is simply much better than theirs').

Unfortunately we are up against a concerted lobby/effort by drug companies, insurance companies, billions of lobby dollars, campaign funding (for mostly Republicans, but Dems too), and a media that is cross-owned by the Big Drug-Insurance-HealthCos...

Oh... One more thing: We have a government whose very members and grassroots have spent YEARS bashing our system publicly, and on the campaign trail. Years of being told we "have a waiting list problem" has it's effect.

I ask the clueless morons out there (on both sides of the border) to read the WHO reports, and maybe watch "Sicko"...

Martin said...

The author of the article does a marvelous job carefully picking the most favorable statistics about the Canadian health care system. However, I can pick a few stats of my own. In Canada, only 13 people per million get liver transplants each year. In the US, the number is 83 per million. So, it looks like 70 Canadians per million (or about 2,100) die each year because liver transplants are rationed in Canada. Just looking at the raw numbers, in 2004 (the most recent year for which I could find data) there were 404 liver transplants in Canada, while in the US there were 23,400 the same year. A difference of 23,000!

OK, here's a stat the Canadians should like: In Canada, only 51 people died while on the waiting list for a liver in 2004. In the US, 2,018 people on the liver waiting list died that same year. How could that be? Are Canadians less likely to suffer from liver disease? Do Canadians drink less alcohol? (LOL, I used to live in Toronto, and I KNOW that's not true). Why do fewer Canadians die while on the waiting list? Simple... It's because in Canada it's nearly impossible to get on the waiting list, much less get an actual transplant! And this doesn't just apply to liver transplants. It applies to nearly every other type of major surgery, too. Sure, it might be easy to get a prescription for for amoxicillin or to get a mole removed, but seriously, life-saving health care is rationed in Canada. That's just a fact. Sorry...

Martin said...

Oh... in response to WesternGrit's comments on WHO reports, WHO is simply an agency of the UN. The UN is a pseudo-democratic organization in which the majority of member countries are either communist, socialist, or dictatorships. The UN is politicized, and therefore the WHO is politicized. It doesn't surprise me that WHO has produced reports which are critical of the American health care system. However, when one of those country's political leaders needs a liver transplant, where do you think they are going to go, Canada, or the US?

Yappa said...

Martin -

Weird example of liver transplants, since transplants depend first and foremost on donors, which health providers have little control over.

I have no idea if the numbers you cite are correct. After reading your second post with its paranoid ramblings about the World Health Organization, I doubt the veracity of anything you say.

Yappa said...

Tomm,

I think all your comments are correct. My point was a side issue, that I am surprised there's not more push-back by Canadians about the way we're being vilified in the US media and political circles.

Yappa said...

WesternGrit -

Hear, hear!

Reverend Sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reverend Sam said...

Yappa, perhaps there's not more pushback because many Canadians dislike their health care system.

And it's funny that since you can't dispute his factual statistics, you simply dismiss him as a kook. Typical...