Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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This video consists of a series of interviews with real Canadians. They discuss the realities of their single payer health care system, and are offended by the American right wing’s insulting it.

This video made me deeply angry: in America, health care is obviously not a human right. In America, people like me — whose health, credit rating, ability to find employment and financial future have been severely compromised due to a lack of health care — deserve our situations, right? After all, things like this don’t happen to real Americans, do they? Well, things like this do happen to real Americans, and this real American has had more than enough and is packing her bags and leaving the country forever.


The video below was filmed at a conference hosted by Canadian Doctors for Medicare that celebrated Medicare in Canada. The speakers include Roy Romanow, former Saskatchewan Premiere and Commissioner on Health Care in Canada. They tell Americans that Canadian universal health care works and encourage Americans to implement a single payer universal health care system. The video also features Dr. Steven Lewis a health policy and research consultant, Dr. Danielle Martin, Dr. Ryan Meili and Dr. Robert Woolard representing the Canadian Doctors for Medicare and Linda Silas President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

Comments

  1. #1 Bob O'H
    September 3, 2009

    Wait a moment, real Canadians? I thought they didn’t exist, and they have to import fakes from abroad.

    Hmmm.

  2. #2 Glendon Mellow
    September 3, 2009

    That upper video is bang on.

    There’s even more to it than the video showed (though the editing was excellent). We also have in Ontario a free service called Telehealth. We call it and can speak to registered nurses. I had an issue, freaked out, and called Telehealth. After discussion, they suggested it was probably nothing too serious, and to see a doctor if not gone by mroning. My doctor was busy, but I saw another one in the same clinic two days after the call, and everything is cool.

    Telehealth is totally free (paid for by taxes). After the initial call and problem, you hang up and they call you back, in my case usually in 30 minutes or less any time of day or night. The idea behind it is to reduce clogs in the emergency rooms.

  3. #3 Dave
    September 3, 2009

    If people want information about Canadian health care, why not go to the source?

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/medi-assur/res/faq-eng.php

  4. #4 MadScientist
    September 3, 2009

    @Dave: But none of our loonies actually want to know about Canadian healthcare; they just want to scare people into believing that they don’t want anything the Canadians have.

    @Grrlscientist: Forever is as long as never; don’t forget that no matter where you are on the planet, there will be hordes of idiots, but most people are nice. The USA may have its problems, but so do other places. As Cecil of The Straight Dope claims: “Fighting Ignorance Since 1973 (It’s taking longer than we thought)”

  5. #5 Cath@VWXYNot?
    September 3, 2009

    But Bob, I am a real Canadian now! I put maple syrup on my bacon and everything! I have three hockey jerseys!

    Back on topic… all my experiences with the Canadian healthcare system have been great. A few weeks ago I stood on some glass and got a piece stuck in my foot; I went to a walk-in (limp-in?) clinic, showed my care card, and had it removed within 10 minutes. Didn’t cost me a penny. The one time I went to emergency, I was seen and treated within half an hour.

  6. #6 John
    September 3, 2009

    At least you’ll be getting some socialized medicine in the near future.

  7. #7 Patient
    September 3, 2009

    The Canadian system is, and continues to be, a work in progress. Good luck trying to get mental health care in Canada; it has been noted that they have one of the very WORST systems in that regard.

    http://www.cfp.ca/cgi/content/full/54/6/895

  8. #8 Joe
    September 3, 2009

    As a US citizen living and working in Canada, I can tell you that these videos are just as biased as the right-wingers representations.

    My experiences with my one emergency room visit had me waiting less than an hour. However, trying to get an appointment for something as simple as a re-check for a prescription renewal had to be booked 3 weeks in advance. There are simply not enough doctors to go around and it’s getting worse (google for many examples). It is getting bad enough that politicians are beginning to consider [gasp!] privatization of portions of the system.

    Finally – we keep hearing the word “free” tossed about, but it’s actually pre-paid with my higher taxes.

    The health-care “debate” right now is a joke. Reform in the US needs to happen, but we need to have actual informed debate, rather than rely on hand-picked vignettes to reinforce our existing opinions.

  9. #9 "GrrlScientist"
    September 3, 2009

    as an american who has had health insurance (and therefore, access to health care) only very rarely during my entire lifetime, i prefer the canadian system to the american system. worse: on those rare occasions when i DID have health insurance, i had to wait 1-2 months before seeing either a doctor or a dentist for reasons that completely escape me, and still had medical bills and medication bills to pay, so what’s the difference?

  10. #10 Patient
    September 3, 2009

    The difference is, in Canada you will also pay–just not up front. You will pay by having to wait longer than just a month or two, you will pay NOT getting ALL the tests you might desire, or treatment you might NEED. You will also pay personally for decisions made unilaterally about what constitutes “good” care. There is a current argument brewing in Canada among physicians, that the Canadian system is not “patient centered”. See:

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5jbjzPEY0Y3bvRD335rGu_Z3KXoQw

    There is also the larger argument to be made about overestimating the ability of government to provide a sustainable model that adequately generates (1) day-to-day care, (2) long-run performance, and (3) innovation– and underestimating the need for market incentives and discipline in achieving what the Canadian system wants to achieve.

    I feel for your personal situation and I really think you DO have options in NYC for health care if you make the effort to find them.

  11. #11 Joe
    September 3, 2009

    GrrlScientist – I absolutely agree with you that the us system needs reform. It’s frustrating, however, to see so many sources of hand-picked ‘testimonials’ used as evidence in the discussion.

    When you get down to it, both the US and Canadian systems have their problems. So, lets acknowledge it and look at some verifiable numbers and get into the actual debate.

  12. #12 Cath@VWXYNot?
    September 3, 2009

    life expectancy stats. Canada is at #5. US is at #50. Yeah, so we pay a little more in taxes… personally I think it’s worth it.

  13. #13 Joe
    September 3, 2009

    Cath – Life expectancy is a poor comparison stat given the difference in economic, social, and behavioral factors between the two. Researchers have argued that the difference is most likely not due to a poorly functioning health care system.

    See here:
    http://www.nber.org/papers/w15213

    Or if you prefer the World Health Organization, they provide 5 reasons, only one of which is access by the poor, which we have already mentioned:

    http://www.who.int/inf-pr-2000/en/pr2000-life.html

  14. #14 Cath@VWXYNot?
    September 4, 2009

    Fair enough – thanks for the links, they make for interesting reading.

    How about the finding that >50% of US bankruptcies are caused by medical costs? And that ~75% of the people who went bankrupt for that reason actually had insurance?

    Again, I’m more than happy to pay my higher taxes, and not have to worry about this kind of thing… My 5-year plan includes ditching full-time employment and becoming a freelancer, something that would be a much more daunting proposition in the US, where my healthcare would be tied to my job.

  15. #15 Joe
    September 4, 2009

    Cath – I feel you. Those are some of the biggest reasons why the US needs reform. I am also more than willing to pay more taxes in exchange for a working system.

    The bankruptcy numbers are scary, and the racial/economic divide is a glaring obstacle to our search for a ‘post-racial America.’

    Finally, while you are willing to pay more for coverage, a large number of Americans are not and either choose to skip adequate coverage or are not motivated enough to research feasible options. Thus, the first question that Americans must answer is can/should we require adequate levels of health insurance for all residents. Sadly enough, this may take a Constitutional Amendment.

    Bottom line, Americans are not going to make any progress towards needed reform until we stop playing games and get to real discussions.

  16. #16 Karen James
    September 5, 2009

    @Patient ‘The USA may have its problems, but so do other places.’ Yeah, but the point is that access to health care isn’t one of them. Also, did you really actually just tell GrrlScientist that it’s her own fault for not having health care because she didn’t ‘make the effort’? That’s just offensive.

  17. #17 shonny
    September 5, 2009

    Interesting to see that Idiot America is alive and well.
    Have lived for nearly thirty years in Australia, and there the health care system is somewhat like the Canadian one. Was a little cocksucker there who was pal with the shrub, and wanted a US health system (health insurance for those who could afford it, and fuck the rest), but he never got that through. Was fortunately kicked out in time.
    Is it something Americans have in the water, or is the stupidity in certain parts of the population the result of inherited mental defects?

  18. #18 "GrrlScientist"
    September 5, 2009

    beyond the issue where america guarantees poor undeserving people basic health care, i think that healthcare is a national security issue. have you ever heard about influenza? HIV/AIDS? multiply-drug-resistant tuberculosis (and how that came about in the first place??) no? lack of health care is creating more problems than it solves, and in the end, only the rich will survive (well, maybe..) and the insurance companies will clean out all our bank accounts.

    Patient: you have no idea how much i’ve sought access to medical and dental care throughout my lifetime, and you have no idea what i’ve been told regarding my failures to obtain it. further, i don’t feel especially compelled to share that information with you since you clearly are more interested in indulging in that all-american pass time, “blaming the victim.” but i do hope that one day, you too, can find yourself absolutely alone and stuck experiencing what i have had to live with for most of my life as you try to just get just the basic necessities to have an indoor life.

    Joe: WHO stats ignore the fact that all five of their reasons for low life expectancy in the USA [extremely poor health, more characteristic of a poor developing country rather than a rich industrialized one; The HIV epidemic causes a higher proportion of death and disability to U.S. young and middle-aged than in most other advanced countries; The U.S. is one of the leading countries for cancers relating to tobacco, especially lung cancer and chronic lung disease; A high coronary heart disease rate; Fairly high levels of violence, especially of homicides, when compared to other industrial countries] are the direct (or indirect) cause of POVERTY and the EXTREME socioeconomic inequality that are perpetuated in the USA.

    cath: i am interested to know which teams are on your hockey jerseys?

  19. #19 Joe
    September 6, 2009

    @GrrlScientist

    are the direct (or indirect) cause of POVERTY and the EXTREME socioeconomic inequality that are perpetuated in the USA.

    Ah, now this is a horse of a different color. Poverty is obviously a huge, self-reinforcing problem in the US. While tobacco use and coronary disease due to obesity are strongly correlated with poverty, it is extremely difficult to argue they are anything but lifestyle differences. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is greatly exacerbated by the social stigma attached to it. And finally, violence is not correctable by health care reform.

    Further, of the 46 million uninsured in the US, 25% are currently eligible for free or subsidized health care. So, we obviously need to either:
    1) Go on an education campaign about those existing programs
    or
    2) Make it drastically more simple to sort out the options available

    So, if the question becomes reducing poverty, then we have moved outside the realm of healthcare reform. While the income gap is widening, that is a different debate altogether.

    As for my personal views, I believe the US needs to greatly simplify the options for uninsured Americans. I also believe that if we leave it up to individuals, many will choose to bypass health insurance (as is certainly the case now). As such, we need to develop some sort of taxation-based universal coverage. I think we can learn a lot from the Canadian system, especially concerning outreach to target populations, such as many of the health initiatives to Canadian Aboriginals.

    After examining the WHO data and considering your argument about poverty, I begin to wonder if the answer doesn’t lie in health care reform, necessarily, but instead in public health efforts (to reduce smoking, HIV, and obesity) and options number 1 and 2 from above.

    To argue without data (as the videos did) that the single-payer Canadian system does not have problems, however, is neither helpful nor correct.

  20. #20 Joe
    September 6, 2009

    Ahhh – almost forgot. I think we also need much better regulation of the insurance industry regardless.

  21. #21 Patient
    September 7, 2009

    @Karen James
    You may believe what I said was offensive, but I was referencing a post that Grrl made to me on another blog about this issue. I was merely pointing out (again) that there are options for her. She may not like those options, but nevertheless if one is in a certain situation they might have to take what is available.

    @Grrl
    You already got your wish– you don’t have to bring any more dark clouds on my own chronic illnesses and lack of employment and insurance for many years. I speak to you from my own personal experience with similar problems and was trying to help you after reading your many posts about your suffering. I am sorry if you find my pushing you to get help offensive– but I am curious, though, as to how someone can be thinking about Antarctica when according to your posts you are “unemployed and uninsured, and have been so for five years, and have no money whatsoever to pay for anything (including food!)” AND “feeling constant pain from permanent damages to your body that are SOLELY due to lack of medical care?”

    I don’t think that reminding you that you should try again is “blaming the victim”. I would call it “getting your house in order”, “putting your health first”, “getting your situation straightened out” and “trying everything you can to get what you need from where ever you can get it”.

    I do not know your “special situation” but I can tell you that programs change their requirements every day, and NYC has LOTS of new resources all the time both public and private. When one says that they have TRIED everything that just tells me that they haven’t FOUND anything—there are still resources to uncover, people to call back again and again until you get something. I learned the hard way that help does not come to you–you have to go out there and wrestle it to the ground, especially in NYC, and especially when you think that its not worth doing any more. You say you are in dire straights, and also want government health care–well then, go out there and get some:

    http://www.health.state.ny.us/health_care/medicaid/#qualify

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