My friend Alan With One L sent me a perfect example of something that I frequently mention, something that drives me crazy. In as long as I've been paying attention to these issues, the US media represents Canada's health care system in a wholly negative light. I don't mean occasionally, and I don't mean highlighting the negatives. I mean always, and completely negative.

Just look at the headline of this New York Times story.
As Canada's Slow-Motion Public Health System Falters, Private Medical Care Is Surging
Alan's accompanying note said: "From the Most E-mailed list--as U.S.A. clings to anything remotely indicating the way here is best. Sad, eh? Anyway, maybe the NYT will get some letters from Canadians." That's it, too. You can't criticize. There can't be anything better. After all, it's TGNOTFOTE.

(I wonder if that reference to letters from Canadians was a hint? I used to be a huge New York Times letter-writer, I had an amazing hit rate. The Globe And Mail hasn't discovered me yet.)

Meanwhile, back in reality, everyone I know, and everyone they know, is using the public health system, and receiving good and timely care. Of course there are problems, of course there are issues. But lordy, "Slow-Motion Public Health System Falters"?? What Canada is this paper reporting on?

And this is the New York Times. We can only imagine what Fox News says. No wonder the wingnuts from Big Soccer think Canadians are all dropping dead while they sit in waiting rooms. (They also thought we could be arrested for saying bad things about the Queen, and that we'd be forced to speak French. Heaven forbid.)

One of our few friends in Toronto just lost his father. The older man had a year-long battle with leukemia. During that time, he received a full range of diagnostic tests, information on treatment options, full treatment, and home care so he was able to stay out of the hospital whenever possible, until his body gave out. And guess what, New York Times? It was all delivered in a timely manner, and it was all free.

If I had a loonie for every Canadian who emailed me with a similar story (though most with happier endings), I wouldn't be working this shitty temp job.

The job's not really shitty. I'm just ranting.

And what about ordinary, primary health care? Not extraordinary surgical procedures, just basic health and wellness care. You know, the kind that can prevent dire problems down the road, or detect illness while it can still be controlled? A sizeable portion of the US population doesn't have that, because they simply cannot afford it. In Canada, it is a right.

And while I'm at it, one of the biggest, unacknowledged differences between the Canadian system and the US non-system is that Canada - government, health providers and citizens - acknowledge the issues and are trying to fix them. Of course we don't all agree on the best course of action, but people are identifying the problems and offering solutions. In the US, no one in power even talks seriously about health care anymore! And I include those lame-ass Democrats in that statement.

On a less rantifying note, there were two late additions to my recent post about changes to the health care system. Al, a doctor in Alberta, had this to say:
This fear of siphoning off doctors to a private system has been happening for years---to the U.S. Last year was the first year in at least 20 years, more doctors came to Canada from the U.S. than left for the U.S. The word I hear in the profession is that the HMOs in the U.S. have become so authoritarian that many of our Canadian docs figure they may as well come back home. Where will the doctors come from to provide the service in the private system? From the U.S. and other countries. These are the physicians that don't like bureaucrats telling them how to practice medicine. The doctors now practicing in Canada are so used to a pay check coming from the government they are unlikely to switch, if they were going to do it, they would have done it already. Its the young doctors that the public system has to bid for, and make no mistake, it's a world wide auction.

One thing is for sure, the status quo is not an option! If any of you are really interested in what is happening in Canada's health care system you can read for hours on my blog site.(www.primaryhealthcare.blogspot.com)
Interesting! And friend of wmtc Sharonapple brought us this:
An interesting comment from a blogger on how public and private interests have made France have the best health care system in the world (as ranked by the WHO).

Klein, Charest and Campbell's plan on two-tier Health Care is a joke. Supporters of Two-Tier health care generally point to France as a model for Two Tier Health Care, yet the follow Britain lead.

The World Health Organization Ranks France as the number one nation in health care delivery, while Canada is 33, the United Kingdom has dropped to 38 from 34 and the United States is 36. Obviously Britain isn't the formula to follow; we are better off following the Americans. Yet all three primers are following them. New Labour when it came to power it did what Margaret Thatcher was unable to which was expand the role of the private system in Britain. New Labour set up a Parallel Public Private System. The private system is now in direct completion with the Public Sector and as predicted it has destroyed the Public System in Britain by siphoning away good doctors and nurses from the Public System and sent it to the Private System.

In France on the other hand the Private and Public Sector do not work icompetitionon with one another. Instead they work together. The Private Sector simply bills the Government for surgeries and all non-cosmetic procedures (like a HMO). By having the private sector involved in this fashion it allows for hospitals to be built without the need for government funding. In France the Public Sector simply is mostly an insurance system, although they do build hospital in areas where the Private Sector isn't interested in making hospitals. By law the Private Sector cannot charge for surgeries and other services, but they can charge user fees if the person wants something extra. An example of that would be, instead of having basic hospital food (like the ones we get here), you can get something nicer, like a turkey dinner or whatever you can safely eat; or you pay extra to be put on a floor with extending visiting hours (of course there would be more). Usually the profit goes to improve the quality of healthcare.
My mother is in Florida right now, and she's met several Canadian snowbirds. Now that she has an instant conversation-starter with Canadians, she seems to collect them.

My mother announced: "These ladies said there are long waits for certain procedures, like hip replacements, because there is a shortage of qualified people to perform them. But they are 75 years old, and all their health care is covered, their prescriptions are less than half the price of mine, and they are not afraid that they will be left without health care as they age - or that their children and grandchildren will be. They are very proud."

As a fellow blogger, another American refugee, noted a while back: there are some problems in the Canadian system, and if you want to know what they are, ask a Canadian. For god's sake don't ask the New York Times.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm actually more cognizant (man, that spelling looks weird) of the gross distortion of Canada's healthcare system in the American press, now that I've had to enroll in and pony up a modest premium for it. It seems there is no "mainstream" American press that will even venture to admit that the Canadian system might actually be treating its citizens better than the US. Or hell, even doing some accurate research to write a proper story. Then again the Times has so declined in recent years, especially with the Judy "Kneepads" Miller scandal, I can barely stomach it.


James Redekop said...

And what about ordinary, primary health care? Not extraordinary surgical procedures, just basic health and wellness care. You know, the kind that can prevent dire problems down the road, or detect illness while it can still be controlled? A sizeable portion of the US population doesn't have that, because they simply cannot afford it. In Canada, it is a right.

Well, it's all trade-offs, you know? Canadians have the right to health care, Americans have the right to carry concealed weapons in public.

(Yes, I know that's actually only true in some US states, but accuracy spoils flow of the facesciousness. ;) )

Tell me again which one is the "culture of life"?

Granny said...

You've heard a little of our horror story and Ray's chronic illness. Someday I'll really rant.

brian said...

It looks almost like we are heading towards a great battle in the near future. Tommy vs. Ralph, the epic battle of public vs. private delivery. And after Paul Martin's budget cuts in the 90s, and with Stephen Harper and the two-tier Tony running things, it looks like it's going ot be a tough battle ahead for us.

The Lizard said...

The slandering extends way beyond health-care. Sometimes Americans seem barely aware that they aren't the only people on Earth who don't live in tarpaper shacks.

No, wait...

David Cho said...

Off topic, but I thought you could have written this, but not as satire.

For the first time, I find myself in agreement with them on the war, but often I have to ask.. is this thing on?

laura k said...

Sometimes Americans seem barely aware that they aren't the only people on Earth who don't live in tarpaper shacks.

Well, that's an exaggeration I hadn't heard before. I hope you see the irony.

laura k said...

David, thank you for that Onion link! It's priceless. I wish I could write like that. I think I'll post it.

SteveR said...

There was actually something about Canada in the American press!? Oy, I'm gonna have a heart attack!

We seem to have excellent coverage of librarians strikes in East Slobovia, but anything about our nextdoor neighbor is very rare.

BTW, I read the NYT every day online, but I take everything with many grains of salt - I can see the 1970's Upper-West-Side lefty attitude (takes one to know one) in almost every headline and story.

One has to be careful of generalizing from anecdotal evidence, but my (Montrealer) wife and I are very dismayed at the very slow treatment for my 80-year-old father-in-law. He is waiting weeks or months for a series of biopsies and operations that would have been done in a week down here.

Oh, and I can understand your exasperation with the NYT story that you saw as being all screwed up. I feel the same way every time I visit my in-laws in Toronto and read what seem to me to be missed-the-point or slanted stories in the Star or the Montreal Gazzette about some U.S. issue

laura k said...

SteveR, in my book, you're living in a dream world, one I'd rather not have to enter too often. Anyone who thinks the NYT is "lefty" isn't gonna make too many friends around here.

I am generally quite pleased with the coverage of the US in Toronto and other Canadian media. Having lived my entire life, minus the last six months, in the US, I find it very refreshing - a far sight more honest than the ass-kissing that passes for reporting within US borders.