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.