extras on sicko, basics in canada

I had an interesting coincidence of events yesterday.

Last night we watched the DVD extras on Michael Moore's "Sicko". There's a lot of good stuff: an extended interview with the great Tony Benn; interviews with Dr. Aleida Guevara from Cuba and Dr. Marcia Angell in New York; information on HR 676, John Conyers's and Dennis Kucinich's bill for universal health insurance; Elizabeth Warren explains how even people who pay enormous sums for health insurance and think of themselves as well protected, find themselves bankrupt when they get seriously ill. And of course, there are more heartbreaking stories of Americans who have died because they are not rich.

In discussing these pieces, Allan and I agreed that real health care reform - single-payer, non-profit, universal insurance - would first require an entire overhaul of the election system.

In order to take on the insurance companies, candidates would have to be free of corporate influence, but still able to get their message to the public. It would take more than just limiting campaign donations, although that's important. A lot of it goes back to air time. If all candidates received free and equal time on television - on the publicly owned airwaves - they wouldn't need so much money to get elected in the first place. Free air time, and no ads. Only factual information on where they stand on issues.

Back in the real world, it happens that I had a doctor's appointment yesterday morning.

In Canada, amid all the talk of wait-times for procedures like hip replacements, an important fact is often overlooked. Canadians can see a doctor for routine, preventative care, and so maintain better overall health, without ever asking themselves, "Can I afford this?"

I've blogged about this before, in what turned out to be a very popular post. But it still amazes me. So I want to tell you what happened to me yesterday.

I had an appointment to see my doctor. For one of my prescriptions, she doesn't write refills, because she wants to check my blood pressure and find out if I'm having any side effects first. So this is a routine appointment. I waited less than 5 minutes, and went in.

She asked me the usual questions, checked my blood pressure (still normal!), and asked me if I've had a flu shot yet. I've never had a flu shot in my life. She explained why she thinks it's a good idea, why Ontario Health recommends it, and I agreed to get one. She gave me the shot.

I also wanted to ask her if she knows any acupuncturists that she refers to, as I've been thinking about trying it. (More on that coming soon.) We chatted about acupuncture, and how I might find a reputable practitioner, and she gave me her opinion.

She wished me well, we said goodbye and I left.

It was free. Or, it feels free because I pay for it with my taxes. The same amount of taxes I paid in the US.

As corny as this sounds, I left her office thinking, "Oh my god, I love Canada. I am so lucky to be here." I hope I always value Canada as much as I do today.

Then at night, we watched those DVD extras.

Why should I have access to this excellent system because I was lucky enough to be able to move to Canada? Why shouldn't everyone, everywhere, have the same access I do? And why shouldn't Americans, who supposedly live in the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth, have this basic need met?

In "Who Would Jesus Deny?", activist priest Mike Seifert calls health care in the US "a sin". Sin, crime, insanity. Call it what you will.

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