21 January 2008

Canada's "failed" system

The issue of Canada's "failed" system is a bit like the lawyer's question, "When did you stop beating your wife?"

If you bring up data that shows that Canada's system is actually in better shape than ours -- at about half the cost -- it implies that you are advocating for a Canada-like system, when in fact single-insurer supporters in the United States believe that we could actually do far better than Canada.

But you have to reply. It's a given in too many Americans' heads that Canada's is a failed system -- just like it's a given that Barack Obama is a "dangerous Muslim." They heard it on that great pipeline of lies, talk radio.

Anyway, here's a listener writing the Fort Collins paper, the Coloradoan:
Colorado is moving toward a single-payer health-care system that it is going to model after the one in Canada... If we do allow these people in Denver to emulate this failed system, we must at least be certain that they do not take away our right to also have access to private insurance and hospitalization at our own cost to make sure that what is happening to so many in Canada will not befall us here as well."
Although he's wrong about Canada, I have to hope he's right about our moving towards single-payer. It's fear-based prediction on his part, pure hope on mine.

There was a longer piece along these same lines yesterday in the Sea Coast Online, from the author of "Doggone Right."

He was writing to counter opinion pieces written by two physicians and a nurse, all calling for single-payer. He dismissed them, saying that their medical degrees weren't degrees in economics. He writes that he and his wife understand "recognize that I am alive and kicking because of the quality of care we purchase."

This is at the root of a lot of the Right's opposition to universal health care. They don't just have the anti-government ideology, although that's part of it. They want people to suffer if they don't work hard enough. They want the system to reward the good and punish, really punish, people who don't measure up. The fact that the system is stacked against a lot of folks doesn't matter for many, and for the rest, it's just a matter of tweaking, and private charity should take care of it.

This Portsmouth guy rails a bit against "free" health care -- which, of course, is a straw man. One of the MDs wrote about the Massachusetts plan: ""Seventy-nine percent of these newly insured individuals are very poor people enrolled in Medicaid or similar free plans. Virtually all of them were previously eligible for completely free care funded by the state, but face co-payments under the new plan."

The point of this is that Massachusetts has held up as a point of success the numbers of people who have signed on to insurance since the mandate went into effect. In fact, the people who have signed on are not people who would have to pay much, if anything, out of their own pockets. The problem Massachusetts has run into are lower wage families who would have to buy out of their own pockets one of the crappy plans offered to them.

In what is almost surely a deliberate distortion, the Portsmouth guy says that because the physicians called this care "free" they don't know what they're talking about. "There is no such animal as free health care. You and I pay every penny, through taxes and our own insurance premiums."

The guy's a regular Sherlock Holmes. Glad he cleared that up for us.

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