Special Guest Column - Michael Coren

Spring 2010 CSANews Issue 74  |  Posted date : May 27, 2010.Back to list

So at long last, health-care reform is achieved in the United States. Or sort of achieved. More than a dozen states are taking legal action and much of the legislation will take years to be implemented. It could also lead to Republican landslides in subsequent elections and major edits of any proposed health-care policies. It's worth remembering, of course, that Republican Presidents as far back as Teddy Roosevelt and including Nixon and Reagan tried to introduce changes, so to regard this as an exclusively Democrat-backed idea is misplaced.

Similarly, it would be misplaced to smugly believe that in Canada, we've got it all settled. For decades now, we've looked to the health-care debate in the United States and made ourselves feel all good inside by pointing fingers at Yankee hysteria and how they're calling each other Nazis, liars and monsters for wanting or not wanting changes to their medical system. Of course this sort of hyperbole is repugnant, but we need to wash ourselves in self-reflection before throwing soap at our neighbours.

While conservative protestors screaming about the dangers of public medicine in the U.S. are featured on network news shows night after night, we see far less coverage of, for example, the documented examples of union thugs physically attacking opponents of President Obama's reforms. And hardly any serious analysis of the extremely impressive discussion in Washington about where change should be applied and what it should be.

Before the vote took place, both mainstream Republicans and cautious Democrats issued scholarly and stimulating reports and none of them have argued that what has existed in the past is adequate or accused anybody of wanting death panels, compulsory abortion for teenagers and commissars insisting on sex-change surgery for octogenarians. 

In Canada, however, for the longest time (and even now) there is hardly any serious debate because to suggest an alternative to our failing system is to be abused as being anti-Canadian, unpatriotic and callous. It's also immediately dismissed because without the Canadian health-care system we would, apparently, be just like the Americans.

Which is utter balderdash. We are rated 30th by the World Health Organization, not only below fairly obvious countries such as Spain and Germany, but also below Morocco and Colombia. One reason for this is the state of the aboriginal community, but this does not explain the entire situation. Our waiting lists are long, too few people have a family doctor and there is insufficient surgery time.

Nobody is suggesting that we should emulate the former or future American approach, but almost everybody who researches the issues speaks of the French. Most of Europe operates a two-tier system and enjoys a success rate that Canadian doctors could only dream about. Several of these nations have a population as large or larger than ours and usually a needier patient base.

References to NDP icon Tommy Douglas walking on water do not help the conversation. Nor does discussing his support for sterilizing the mentally handicapped - which he did support and which is a little disturbing in that he's constantly being voted greatest Canadian by people who seem to obsess about such nonsense. That was then and this is now. This vital discussion is not about romanticized farmers watching their children die in their arms any more than it is about fictitious medical insurance men smoking fat cigars and kicking your puppy.

The system is broken and has to be fixed. There is a ceiling to how much tax we can and should pay; money will anyway not solve all of the problems and an aging Canadian people will face far more challenges finding good health care in the future than we do now. If we allow Rush Limbaugh or Rush Limbaugh's critics to frame this one, we're in deep trouble and, frankly, deserve it. As is so often the case, what we find absurd in the American conversation is really something we should admire. Caring about the country and being passionate about policy are not regrettable, but laudable.

Will President Obama's plans come to pass and will they truly change how health care is provided and funded in the United States? We'll see. But my goodness, we should congratulate them for having the discussion in the first place.

Related links
Special Guest Columnist - Michael Coren - Winter 2009
Special Guest Columnist - Michael Coren - Fall 2009