Many Canadians defend their health system in moralistic terms: they cover everyone, unlike those uncivilized Americans. But Canadian Rondi Adamson warns against the Canadian tendency towards preachiness:
Six years ago, my mother had open-heart surgery. After her cardiologist recommended the surgery, a group of doctors at the hospital to which her cardiologist was attached had to review her case and decide whether she was, in their collective expert opinion, worth it.
Thankfully, they decided she was. But they could have just as easily decided she wasn’t. My mother had the surgery, without which her doctor did not believe she would have survived 2003. She is still here and still remarkable.
In that true story one can find the good and the bad of Canadian healthcare. There are, de facto, death panels. Alarmist terminology aside, in a single-payer, public system, the state will decide how to mete out finite resources. Of course, with private healthcare there are also “death panels.” But at least you can shop around for an insurer who will be generously inclined towards your various ailments.
Had the doctors overseeing my mother’s case decided against surgery, her only option would have been to go to the United States, something she could not have afforded. But they decided in her favour and what came next demonstrated one of the best things about our system. Due to luck of the draw and the hospital to which her cardiologist was linked — as opposed to wealth or influential friends — my mother had her surgery performed by one of the best heart doctors in the country.
I tell this story in response not so much to the ongoing debate about healthcare in the United States, but in response to the general Canadian sanctimony about it. We would do well to not preach, in spite of Barack Obama ‘s assertion — during his appearance a few weeks ago on the Late Show with David Letterman — that Canadians “are perfectly happy with their system.”
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