The wounded right-wing of U.S. politics is striking out again at Canada, just as they always seem to do when the going gets tough. Remember the false charges that the 9/11 suicide terrorists came from Canada?
This time it’s over their battle to keep healthcare the private goldmine of insurance companies and private institutions. And, of course, to protect the millions of dollars that now flow from private health care lobby groups to U.S. politicians and their agents.
Theirs is not a fight over principle, folks. Theirs is a mean-spirited defence of vested interests in the name of private enterprise. And some proponents of the status quo in the United States will stop at nothing in this battle. Take this recent example.
Yesterday Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), while on MSNBC with Carlos Watson, grotesquely distorted CBO figures. He claimed (and he’s distorted figures before):
“We don’t need this administration and House Democrats, even with the changes that have been negotiated in their deal, are intent on doing, and that is launching a massive, new, government-run insurance plan that will [mean] literally nearly a trillion dollars in higher taxes at the outset...”
MSNBC’s Carlos Watson reacted quickly, saying:
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa ... unless you’re looking at different data than I’m looking at, I don’t remember there being a trillion dollars in new taxes.”
Pence then backtracked with, “Yeah, I'm rounding up,” placing the price tag at $800 billion. But, even that was a phony number.
In fact, the CBO's preliminary estimate of the House bill stated its entire cost would be just over $1 trillion over 10 years. $540 billion of that—not the $800 billion or $1 trillion claimed by Pence—would be paid for with new taxes affecting about 1.2 per cent of U.S. households. Savings in Medicare and other health systems are expected to take care of the rest of the bill.
In similar fashion, the opponents of U.S. health care reform are maligning and distorting our publicly-funded health care system. It’s a smear campaign, of course, because they cannot argue their position on its merits. Every other industrial nation on earth has publicly funded universal health care. The U.S. stands alone as the last bastion of a warped, 19th Century view of private enterprise.
Think about it: people in Canada live longer and infant mortality is lower than in the United States. Add to that the fact our system is less costly. This is not how they characterize our system though, is it?
Canadian governments spend around 7 per cent of GDP on health care, about the same as in the United States. In Canada, however, everyone is covered while in the U.S. 7 per cent of GDP covers only about a third of their population.
Furthermore, Canada spends just 2.4 per cent of our total costs on administration compared to the 7 per cent the U.S. government spends. In fact, some studies place private sector health care administration costs at a whopping 14 to 22 per cent in the U.S.
When I arrived in Ontario in the 1950s, families were responsible for their own medical bills. Those with the money got the care they needed, but those without suffered and went without care—some even died from lack of proper care. Some families, like mine, spent their entire life savings on a single illness of one family member.
Our system may be flawed, but it works well. In medical emergencies, such as the one I faced in 2001, patients are treated without a credit check. From the time I arrived at the emergency department, to the time I was in a bed in the intensive care ward and hooked up to monitors and intravenous medication, less that 10 minutes had elapsed.
I would not swap our system for the Americans’ money-first or no care even for life-threatening conditions system. Nor do I envy Americans their exorbitant insurance costs, private-sector bureaucrat control and poor outcomes in life expectancy and infant mortality.
I just wish they’d leave us out of their squabbling and stop their shameful slandering of our social program when they have nothing that measures up to ours.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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