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Posted by on Jun 23, 2009 in Economy, Education, Health, Media, Places, Politics, Science & Technology, Society | 17 comments

Canadian ‘Health-Care Socialism’: When Will Americans Learn?


My two friends (surely they can’t be described as “socialists” by any stretch of imagination) have come out in full support of the US government’s SINGLE PAYER HEALTH INSURANCE scheme. However, they are amazed at the misinformation that is being spread regarding the scheme in the US media and the ads.

Shyamal Bagchee, PhD, FRSA, Professor of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, has drawn my attention to Bill Mann’s write up in HuffPost: “Americans Who’ve Used Canada’s Health-Care System Respond to Current Big-Lie Media Campaign.” While Suzanne White provides a detailed explanation and compares the proposed system with the French health system.

Bill Mann writes: “Americans who’ve lived in Canada and used their (health) system, as my wife and I did for years, are incensed by the lies we’ve heard back here in the U.S. about Canada’s supposedly broken system. It’s not broken – and what’s more, Canadians like and fiercely defend it.

Mann gives examples: “Our son was born at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. My wife got excellent care. The total bill for three days in a semi-private room? $21.

“My friend Art Finley is a West Virginia native who lives in Vancouver. ‘I’m 82, and in excellent health,’ he told me this week. ‘It costs me all of $57 a month for health care, and it’s excellent. I’m so tired of all the lies and bullshit I hear about the system up here in the U.S. media.’

“Finley, a well-known TV and radio host for years in San Francisco, adds, ‘I now have 20/20 vision thanks to Canadian eye doctors. And I haven’t had to wait for my surgeries, either.’

“We were always seen promptly by our doctors in Montreal, many of whom spoke both French and English. Today, we live within sight of the Canadian border in Washington state, and still spend lots of time in Canada.” More here…

Mann continues: So, government-run health care is only one thing we Americans can learn from Canada and its ‘left-leaning’ political leaders. Finally, on most issues, even Canada’s ruling Conservative Party is to the left of our own Democratic Party. That tells you a lot.” See here…

(Meanwhile US President Barack Obama issued an urgent call yesterday for quick action on sweeping health-care reforms in an attempt to deliver on his most important domestic policy promise from last year’s campaign, against fierce opposition from Republicans and much of the medical industry. It “cannot wait”, he said. More here…)

My friend Suzanne White writes on the same issue: “MANY AMERICANS DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT SINGLE PAYER HEALTH INSURANCE MEANS. Not understanding something often causes people to fear it.

“I have been in The States for about two weeks. I live in France. I am a health insurance exile. I notice some American faces go blank when I mention Single Payer Health Insurance. But rather than ask me what it means or try to find out on their own, they resist the very expression and sputter words like ‘socialism’ and ‘government control’ at me.

“One person even claimed that Single Payer means only you pay premiums. Your employer does not. That’s poppycock.

“And that’s too bad. A misunderstanding. The government is not trying to inflict some further torment on the American people by adopting single payer health insurance. It’s trying to help them get full coverage for a modest premium

“I will try to explain how it works for me in France.

“Single Payer Health Insurance is (with variations) a system wherein the government owns a non profit health insurance company. Not the ONLY health insurance company. There are many private carriers as well.

“In France, just about everybody chooses the national company because the premiums are based on their incomes and the coverage is the best for the money. Employers pay a percentage of our income (publishers, film productions, dance companies as well as businesses) so that everybody is covered.

“We also pay premiums (a percentage of what we make) to the government company every month or maybe every trimester. Health insurance costs do not come out of our taxes. Premiums are, in fact, tax deductible.

“So everyone pays something different based on his or her family situation (many children or handicapped people might probably pay less) and income. But … everyone is equally covered.

“The care one receives is not based on the amount he or she pays in. Rather, care is based on how ill one is. There are 19 or 20 major diseases (cancer, diabetes, MS, etc.) which guarantee 100% coverage for everything to do with that illness so long as you have it. Otherwise, in most cases, there is what Americans call a co-pay.

“The government company may pay 80% of my 20 Euro doctor visit. I pay the extra 20% out of pocket. Too, I choose my doctors. If I want to go to a more expensive doctor who is not fully covered on the government plan, I can and I frequently do.

“The best thing is that when you live in a place which offers Single Payer Health Insurance at modest prices, you don’t live in fear of yourself or your children or one of your family members falling ill. If someone gets sick, they get care. The sicker they are, the more care they get.

“Logically, when there is a government health insurance company, their job is to keep people healthy. The French government spends a lot of money on encouraging preventive health care.

“In France, there are prime time TV commercials and ads in the M├ętro and on buses giving advice and phone numbers of free clinics to stop smoking and curb alcohol abuse, etc.

“Naturally too, when a government owns a health insurance company, it wants to save money. How does it save money? By keeping the people healthy. No genetically modified foods. Fewer pesticides and fewer chemicals in the prepared foods and indeed fewer prepared foods.

“Ads about exercise, ads about eating 5 fruits and vegetables each day, ads to encourage careful driving, etc., abound. The government also controls prices on medicines. Nowhere is medicine cheaper than in France. The pharmaceutical companies don’t like this practice.

“They would rather everybody be ill and need their products. In France, one cannot even advertise prescription medication on TV. Only alternatives or homeopathic (comfort) medicines which can be bought over the counter are allowed to be advertised.

“Lastly, private insurance companies compete with the government company. Their first job is to absorb the rich people who don’t want to get the national company’s insurance because paying a percentage of their large income would prove too dear.

“So rich people often buy private coverage. Secondly, private insurers serve as co-payers. If you have both public and a small private additional policy, it will pay for the co-pay and dental and eye care (that the government plan pays only a minimum for) .

“What President Obama meant when he said he wanted a government company to compete with private insurers in order to keep the private insurers honest, he meant that if the myriad private insurers in the U.S. had to compete with a government health plan which covers everything for a percentage of income, the private companies would have to offer more coverage for less money.

“It stands to reason. That’s what Obama means when he says Single Payer helps keep private companies ‘honest’.

“Compare it to the BBC and Private TV in England. The BBC is free and without commercials and, as we know, has wonderful programs for all sectors of society. Their excellence keeps the private TV stations on their toes. They too have to make great documentaries, offer hilarious sitcoms and dramas and give great news coverage – or else the Brits will simply prefer the BBC.

“It’s a sound policy and it works.

“Is the French health care insurance company in debt? Yes. Constantly. But isn’t everybody? And I ask you, would you prefer your government be in debt from spending too much on health care? Or would you prefer the government be in debt because of squandering taxpayers’ money on wars?…Contact me at: [email protected]And also here…

Thank you Shyamal and Suzanne…

More on the US health care….

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