Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Canadian complaining


Friends of ours have a son, an engineer, who married a Canadian girl, also an engineer. She's pregnant now, at the same time her husband's firm would like to transfer him to Phoenix on a temporary assignment. The company says her pregnancy is just fine--they'll fly her back to Ontario from Phoenix every time she needs to see the doc, weekly, if need be, because it's that much cheaper for them to fly her home than to pay the bills for a birth in States.

They're not afraid of quality, I guess. Amazing.

The rhetoric on the Canadian health care system, as I hear it, seems fearfully overblown, so much so that Shep Smith asked a Fox News reporter last night whether yet another report about Canadians flooding the border to escape horrifyingly decrepit conditions up north was, in fact, fair.

Fair, in this country's medical care debates, is hard to come by. All I know for sure is that in almost forty years of life among Canadians and with Canadians, I just haven't heard so many complaints as some news reports claim. One might think the only sounds emanating from up north are the sounds of feet shuffling through immense lines and concurrent volumes of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Not so--at least not so in my experience.

What seems obvious is that the Canadian health system costs less and delivers more. Canadians spend ten percent of their economy on health care; we spend 16--that translates to 80 billion dollars.

We have somewhere around 40 million uninsured; Canada has none. I don't know any or all of these figures end the argument, but Canadians have a much lower infant mortality rate (20% lower), and live, on average, three years longer.

No health care system is perfect. Most reports claim Canadians do wait longer for some elective surgeries, but what so many Yankees seem not to want to think about is that the whole problem of health care is immensely complex--immensely.

Take "preventive care," for instance, one of Obama's favorite choruses. Who can possibly be against "preventive care," right? Yet, if we exercise prudent "preventive care," people will live longer. If they do, their individual health care costs skyrocket. Therefore, if we argue by sheer bucks, we ought to avoid preventive care so all of us die young and thereby save money.

Or how about this.? Dr. Oz's free clinics see thousands of uninsured patients, a significant majority of which are obese. Obesity is a major American health problem, says this overweight guy, and a huge problem among children. On Morning Joe yesterday, Oz suggested that obesity among children is augmented by programs in physical education being cut, by no more school recesses, and by the fact that almost 90% of elementary school children in this country now take a bus to school, when they could and should be walking.

Health care is immensely complex and gigantic, and some people's knee-jerk responses are as silly as they are scary.

I make no claims for authority. Authority requires far more knowledge and experience than I have. What I know, however, is that through the many years I've worked with Canadians, and lived with them, I've never heard them complain as much as some segments of the press now claim they do.

This friend of ours with the Dallas-based son and daughter-in-law told me she didn't even dare tell her U. S. relatives that story, for fear they'd think her a communist. Our preacher is a Canadian--I'm not sure he could stand on the pulpit and offer his point of view. Likely as not, he'd get scalped.

And what's worse, we'd end up paying the medical care.

10 comments:

Wickle said...

I have a Canadian sister-in-law who can't believe how foolish we in the US are about this whole thing.

My friends in the UK are about the same.

It's amazing the "information" being passed around as fact down here right now.

Yes, "fair" is hard to come by. The whole argument has degenerated to who can yell the loudest and make the nastiest accusations.

Thanks for introducing a little perspective.

Stacie said...

I think the idea behind preventative care is not to make us live longer to rack up more bills. Rather, we will spend less of our lives racking up bills, having better overall health. Then one day, we can drop dead at home, will no one to pay but the undertaker.

Chris said...

I think Americans are defensive about our health care system because it comes under such criticism from abroad and at home, and when people get defensive, they start doing weird things.

Canada has roughly the population of California... so if the US adopted their nationalized health care system, it would be a far larger and more complicated thing. It would also involve significantly higher taxes.

Of all the things Obama has suggested, the public option for health care interests me the most. I haven't followed the debate that much, but I hope this possibility becomes a reality.

You're right... this is all such a complicated thing. I see two tendencies at work in the discussion of health care. One side praises the systems in other countries and condemns the system in the US, and the other side does the opposite, praise the US system and condemn the ones in other countries. I think both approaches are unrealistic. My sense is every system has its strengths and problems. Maybe we can work on making our US system a little better.

My nickel's worth.

Dan said...

Jim:
Here are links to two sources of information and commentary on the Canadian health care scene. These two Canadian sources are some distance apart in their ideological orientation but their conclusions on the current state of Canadian health care are not so far apart. www.nursesunions.ca/media.php?mid=1035
www.fraserinstitute.org/newsandevents/.../6839.aspx
I live in the U.S., right up against the Canadian border, so we have first-hand experience with Canadian patients coming to the U.S. to seek particular kinds of health care that are either not available at all or available only after significant wait times in Canada. To be fair, there is some flow the other way by Canadian citizens living in the U.S. who are seeking basic care that is more affordable across the border. Back in the 1970s, I lived in Ontario for a couple of years and experienced the pluses and minuses of OHIP, the provincial health care plan. I'm very glad to be back in the U.S.A. when it comes to health care, though my attitude is undoubtedly sweetened by good medical insurance coverage provided through my employer. This is not a simple case of U.S. bad / Canada good, or vice-versa, even though my bias is strongly in favor of the U.S. system which has served my family and me very well.
Dan

PR Merkle said...

Once again, it becomes clear that the public option is dead (Rockefeller amendment just voted down in the Senate committee)--and has been for quite some time. Not enough votes to avoid a fillibuster in the Senate.

It is also important in discussing US health-care policy to distinguish between the uninsured and those not receiving health care. While the US may have more uninsured people, when it comes to access to health care, no one is turned away in the US and treated immediately--illegal immigrant, immigrant or natural-born citizen--through clinics and hospitals.

Rick and Monique Elgersma said...

I have a Canadian friend who says one of two things--things can be quite difficult there and good "doctoring" is hard to find. Major procedures can take months and months to complete etc. But for the most part things seem to work well enough and since he doesn't know any better, he doesn't know what there is to complain about. That is a telling statement. We have to be very cognizant about the quite excellent care the many millions are receiving here now and what vast changes might do to that. Other than that, sweeping changes might be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

If Medicare, with all its inefficiencies and waste is any indication of how a US government run option will work, I say no thanks.

Keep it private.

We can not afford any more of that crap in the US.
We've added enough debt to our grand-kid's budgets already.

Klomp said...

In Colo. Sprgs., we have 3 free health care facilities. For those who have no health ins. It is run by 249 voluteers from 57 local churches and donations from local churches. Seems to me like a good avenue to look into. Of course, there'll be those who want "separation of church and state." HOW IDIOTIC!

Meredith Morgan said...

I apologize for the rant; it's been brewing for a while. I have been wondering what would be the next hot-button topic for the wing-nuts to replace gays in the churches. I guess this is it.

I don't personally know any Canadians, but my husband and daughter both have Canadian friends. They travel from Florida to Canada for medical care. Hmmmm? Just how awful is that system?

My father died of cancer. Only hours before he died, the doctors wanted to run more tests rather than refer him to hospice where he and the family wanted him to be.

My aged mother is a virtual hostage to various doctors who fill her full of drugs (that sometimes counteracts each other), run every manner of tests almost monthly and keep her so busy going from one doctor to another she has no time for any "life".

I have a friend who is undergoing cancer treatments. I grit my teeth and pray to God for mercy on the souls of the medical professionals who treat sick patients with such callous disregard for their needs. (I pray for my friend's health and her ability to tolerate her medical treatment.)

For the past ten years, I have paid hundreds of dollars a month for health insurance in the event one of us gets sick. I have not been able to bring myself to go back to a doctor since the time my doctor referred me to a lab for an MRI and they demanded a co-payment of $1600 cash up front (remember: I had insurance). That was more than six years ago.

Our health care system is in desperate need of an overhaul. Wholesale adoption of the Canadian system would not work in America. We need to find some reasonable compromise that will work here. I would like to see a plan that spreads the risk among the widest group possible (i.e. everyone in America) in order to lower costs, with an option to buy more than the basic coverage for those who can afford it and want it, paid for by a combination of individuals, employers and the government and administered by private insurers. I think the system should be mandatory for all residents of the United States. It would be a nice bonus, if the medical profession would be encouraged to see patients as whole human beings as opposed to isolated diseased organs.

I know: I'm delusional.

Home Staging Toronto said...

The problem of the current US health care system is that it only is and always will be (unless changed to a new system) a huge profit maker where the big CEOs of huge insurance companies don't give a rats ass about the patient. They just want the money and a lot of it. So if that includes not providing the patient everything that is available that is fine by them. And that's just plain wrong. The US has a huge potential with its top notch equipment and doctors but fails to deliver it since the system is only aimed at the profit. Sad, very sad.

Take care, Ella