Thursday, August 13, 2009

Evils of Universal Health Care?

As many (ie all four) of you may or may not know, there's a big debate raging on here in the States about Health Care Reform. I try to stay informed on all major national & world news, but I must admit that I don't know as much about this issue as I should, or at least as much as I would like. My dad was watching Fox News & tried to pull me into a discussion about evil, socialist Obama's plot to kill all the senior citizens. I had to stop myself a few times from just snapping & calling him out as the xenophobic, pusillanimous, right-wing lemming that he is. And I say that in the most endearing way possible.

Anyway, his whole argument was that a government funded health care program would way the benefits of providing care to the elderly against the costs, & then drop their coverage & convince them to "die with dignity" if the costs are too high. Another one of his favorite arguments is that the proposed health care system is identical to the Canadian publically-funded health care system, which in his/Fox News' mind is one of the worst in the world. I don't know much about the Canadian health care system, but I'm pretty sure it's not that bad.

So I decided to do some research into the issue on my onw. I've tried to watch the news lately, but it's just too partisan for my tastes. And the only thing they're showing is a few people getting upset at the town hall meetings. So I went to my research tool of choice: Wikipedia. I just want a basic understanding, not a Masters degree in American Health Care, & Wikipedia's good for that. Anyway, from what I can tell, Obama is trying to do the opposite of what my dad think's he's doing. Instead of trying to "kill of the elderly", the reform is trying to prevent health insurance agencies from dropping people's coverage due to high costs or sudden & severe illness.

I also looked a little into the Canadian health care system & it doesn't seem like that bad of a plan to me. But then again, Wikipedia can only take me so far. For anyone reading this, I know it's not the most interesting thing I can post about, but if you've read this far & you know more about this than me, could you please explain it? Whether you know more about the proposed US health care reform, or you're from a country with universal health care, I'd just love it if you could share your knowledge. And I promise, I'll try to be a lot less boring next time :-D


  1. Well, as a Brit, I can give you a somewhat interesting UK perspective.

    This whole Obama health plan has been big news over here too actually, because we have a system similar to Canada called the NHS (National Health Service). A 'high-profile' member of the opposition party (the Conservatives...the Labour party are in power) went on Fox News in the US this week and said the NHS was crap lalala and that 'he wouldn't wish it on anyone'. What he said was very out of step with the vast vast vassst majority of the British public (and all the political parties) who love the NHS (check out Twitter, apparently it's awash with praise). So, all week, there has been lots of debate about our health system as a result of the debate in the US.

    So, put simply, the NHS provides free healthcare to EVERYBODY 'at the point of need'. Meaning, if anyone breaks a leg, you can go to any hospital and it will be treated for free. Simple. And that extends to all illnesses, from cancer to flu. Of course, this is paid for through taxes and a lot of investment has gone into the NHS over the last 12 years to improve it and make it better. The downsides that have been quoted in the US media like waiting lists for operations do exist, but are very small these days - a matter of weeks between diagnosis and treatment for certain cancers, for example.

    Many of the things the right-wing in the US have been claiming about the NHS have been totally untrue. For example, we have "death panels". This refers to an organisation we have called the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (N.I.C.E. - geddit? lol) who, amongst other things, decide which drugs should get 'public funding'. The inevitable downside of the NHS is that we can't afford ALL drugs for ALL people, so they only pick the best, most effective and thoroughly proven medicine to be used in the UK. They do NOT sentence people to death by rejecting them drugs. If they want to use an unapproved drug, they can pay for it themselves, just like in the US, using private healthcare. They moan cos its expensive but of course it's expensive compared to it being FREE all the time, we've just got used to it by now :p

    As far as I understand it, Obama is suggesting you use an NHS-style system for vulnerable groups without health coverage or without full insurance. It seems to me like a very obvious and fair solution, in a country of such health inequalities. They may call it 'socialist' but I say, YES, it's VERY socialist, and I'm proud to say it's socialist because it's FAIR for all those people who can't afford to make that decision between paying to keep healthy or paying for food to be given assistance by the state.

    I could go on but this is already getting very long :s Hope that's given you a little bit of insight, even if it wasn't particularly what you asked for!!

    Loving your posts btw :) You're a compelling guy.
    Sam. xxx

  2. I didn't think it was boring at all!

    Access to healthcare in Canada is thought of more as a right like freedom of speech or something like that. That’s a major difference. Hospitals don't ever turn people away- if you are a foreigner and have an accident you will be treated before you can even prove that you can pay for it. There definitely are groups wanting to establish a public/private system like in France but any talk of reforming healthcare here is kind of viewed with skepticism, and isn’t popular. Even our right-wingers wouldn’t dare say they want to establish a parallel private system. Most private healthcare services are illegal under the Canada Health Act (I think thats the one). Despite all the problems with it (the waiting lists for non life-threatening surgeries) for the most part Canadians like it the way it is (which is important- why would we not want to change it if people died on waiting lists, or if we suffered from substandard care?). The amount of crap being circulated by right wing groups in the states about Canada’s healthcare system is really frustrating and I think it’s largely based on a presumed Canadian inferiority. We deal with it all the time, and its mocked occasionally in the Canadian media. There are no “death councils,” seriously wtf haha doctors make decisions based on what’s best for the patient- the government has no say in how individual cases are managed. If you’re seriously injured you get immediate care, guaranteed. We have access to world-class specialists and active research institutions with doctors from around the world.

    Its also not as complicated or as different as it sounds. Basically, the government is a very generous health insurance company. Just like someone with health insurance in the states would pay monthly for coverage people in Canada, or at least in BC (healthcare is provincial), pay a certain amount to the government. This is just a healthcare specific “tax” that I’m pretty sure just goes in with the rest of the government’s revenue (it probably gets complicated from that point). Everyone that can (for example, people on welfare don’t have to) pays the exact same amount, and receives the exact same coverage and level of treatment no matter how old, sick, or wealthy they are. If you would use the "S" word to describe that I don’t have a problem with that, because that’s what it is! Whether you are personally willing to sacrifice anything in order to have the same level of care as everyone else- including that homeless guy on the street- that’s up to you. I have a feeling most Americans won’t- what would an American be without staunch individualism and a “bull up your bootstraps” mentality? I feel sorry for the 30,000,000 not receiving any care at all.