I was watching Dr. Robert Ouellet, the President of the Canadian Medical Association, on C-Span’s Morning Edition as he took calls and questions on Canada’s single-payer system. The most important thing he did was blow holes in the myths which are being actively promoted by the Right-wing health opponents. I wish everyone could be watching or listening to this and, if as is the case on Sundays, C-Span reruns this morning’s program on C-Span 3 in the afternoon, then it would be worth catching it and listening.
In connection with this program, I would refer you to a long article I read last night on Truthout, titled “Don’t Get Sick.” by Gail Pellet, a Canadian living in the United States, who makes a detailed defense of Canada’s system and part of the history of how it came about as a result of the work of T. C. (Tommy) Douglas, a Baptist minister turned politician in Saskatchewan (and, interestingly enough, the grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland.)
This from the article:
In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation conducted a poll to determine whom Canadians thought was the greatest Canadian of all time. It was not Pierre Trudeau, Joni Mitchell, Dan Aykroyd, Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Lorne Michaels, Oscar Peterson, Peter Jennings, Celine Dion, Neil Young, Keanu Reeves, nor Wayne Gretzky. It wasn’t even Keifer Sutherland or his dad, Donald. No, it was Keifer Sutherland’s grandfather, Tommy Douglas, who is credited with making sure that Canadians would have universal, government-funded health care. When Canadians are periodically polled and asked what they are most proud of, in addition to peacekeeping, it is their national health care system.
The Canadian system is single-payer, however YOU select your doctor (sounds a little like what Obama keeps saying and the Republicans keep denying). Ouellet, who is the outgoing President of the CMA, originally spent a great deal of effort to get the Canadian system privatized, until a polling of the country revealed that 85% of the population wanted to improve the public system and had no interest in privatization. He then worked to strengthen the one area that has been called up as weak and that is waiting periods for some procedures in some parts of the country. He points out that these are not that great and in the last couple of years since the 2004 poll have been greatly reduced. It should be noted that NONE of the complaints about waiting periods apply to emergencies or necessary needs of major diseases. As one person on the phone with Ouellet on C-Span said: “If you have cancer, Canada is the best place to be.”
It is problematic that we, as Americans, don’t like to listen to other countries and their successes. We have had the same response to systems in Great Britain and France that we have had to Canada, that is, we are unique, and special, etc.etc. etc…. meanwhile our lives are shorter in length and we are further down on the scale (37th exactly) when compared to the Health Care programs in other countries. This is our peculiar problem, and we suffer for it.
By the way, if you are interested in how Tommy Douglas got Saskatchewan and then the whole country to move toward the program they have now, then you might be interested in a speech he is famous for when he founded the New Democratic Party. It’s called “Mouseland” and this animated video is introduced by Kiefer Sutherland HERE Note… this is not about Health Care, but about political change and, glory be, it applies to us as well.