How foolish our health care "debate" looks to the rest of the world


Roundup from the Kaiser Health News Service: "Brits Fight Back Against 'Ridiculous Claims' About Their Health System."

The Washington Post reports that Britons are getting irritated by health-reform rhetoric: "Sen. Edward M. Kennedy would be refused treatment for his brain tumor in England -- at least according to one of the allegations lobbed at Britain's state-funded health-care service recently by critics of President Obama's proposed health-care reforms. Such claims have irked British health officials, who say they are misleading, exaggerated and sometimes just plain wrong."

The Washington Post: "Complaining about Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is a popular pastime here. The waiting times for specialist treatment are too long, Britons say, or the risk of picking up an infection in an unclean hospital ward is too high. At the same time, they consider such griping their particular preserve"(Adam, 8/13).

Denver Post / The Associated Press: "Britain's National Health Service is fighting back against conservative critics of President Barack Obama's health care plan and the British health care system. A Twitter campaign backed by a government minister is urging Britons to express their appreciation for its free health service from cradle to grave, which was launched in 1948" (8/13).

The Telegraph reports: "Experts within the NHS condemned the allegations made in speeches and television adverts as half-truths and distortions.... The NHS does a damn fine job,' said Dr Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health. These claims are complete and utter rubbish'" (Devlin and McElroy, 8/12).

McClatchy / Sacramento Bee reports on comparisons between the U.S. and other countries: "Ask around for the healthiest country in the world, and the United States won't come close to topping the list. People live longer in just about every industrialized nation, from Canada to our north, throughout much of Europe, and around the Pacific in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. New mothers and their babies also face a rockier start here, with U.S. infant and maternal death rates double some of our industrialized peers. As debate swirls in Washington and at town halls nationwide over health care reform, there is also a more fundamental question -- what about health? Could policymakers change our medical system in ways that would make America a healthier country?" (Dahlberg, 8/12).


I think the Post has correct. If you've ever had to deal with NHS care, you probably know there's plenty to complain about and Brits do complain about it. But if the NHS wanted a great PR campaign they couldn't do better than getting trash-talked by a bunch of people with an even more dysfunctional system.

Thank you Gary for this overdue overview! I discovered your blog from a Media Doctor Canada link.

As a Canadian (read: "land of commie, pinko, socialized medicine" since the 1930s) I too am baffled and offended by some American claims that your health care system reforms will bring "the horrors of Canadian health care". Seriously.

I've read claims such as 'in Canada, you can't even choose your family doctor'. Wrong. "In Canada, heart patients are given stents instead of bypass surgery". Wrong again. Canadian heart patients are just like American heart patients - for some, stents are appropriate medical care, and for others, coronary artery bypass grafts are.

As a heart attack survivor here on the West Coast of Canada, I did not pay one penny for my Emergency Room visits, all cardiac tests, physician or nursing care, O.R. procedures, my stay in CCU, my hospital bed, all drugs in hospital, or any follow-up visits/tests with my cardiologist and family doc. I've had state-of-the-art cardiac care, delivered in a world-class heart institute that attracts researchers and students from many other countries (including the U.S.A). And I will never get a bill for any of this care. I also have delivered two babies (free), been referred to expert specialists (free), had surgery for a ruptured appendix (free), knee surgery (free), had the same wonderful family doc for 33+ years, and received a host of miscellaneous medical care - yes, all free.

Our Canadian health care system is certainly not perfect. There are waiting lists for elective (non-essential) surgery, and our hospitals are facing the same critical nursing shortages that all countries are facing now with Boomer nurses retiring in droves.

But when I showed up in hospital in mid-heart attack, I was seen immediately, and went directly from E.R. to O.R. for expert emergency treatment. And I will never lose sleep over how to pay for my hospital stay, I will never have a collection agency hounding me for past due medical bills, I won't ever worry if my medical insurance company will deny my claims, I won't have to choose between losing my home or providing medical care for my children.

In October, I attended the 'WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium for Women with Heart Disease' at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota - the first Canadian ever invited to attend. For five days, I heard stories just like these nightmare scenarios mentioned above from the women at Mayo. It was an eye-opening experience for me: to have 45 other women, all Americans, each telling their own personal version of the nightmare that is your health care system, and its tragic consequences on their family life.

The World Health Organization has rated the U.S. in 37th place for its medical care. Your infant mortality rates are double what most other modern capitalist countries claim. This is the wealthiest country on earth? It is shameful, pure and simple.

And all Americans have to do to stop even discussing health care reform in its tracks is to toss out the words 'socialized medicine'. One American woman told me recently, "If I wanted socialized medicine, I'd move to China!"

So instead, I respectfully suggest you call it what we Canadians have been calling it for the past eight decades: universal health care.

Keep up the great work, Gary! I am so inspired by your writing and your work, and only wish your fellow citizens were aware of it, too.

Regards from Canada,

Carolyn Thomas

The comments of such fruitcake organisations as LaRouche has not gone unnoticed on the other side of the pond:

I couldn't have said it better than the remarks from Carolyn Thomas. I too have lived in Canada all my life (68 yrs.) and never have I had to wait for essential treatment. My family has had several occasions to use the emergency departments of various hospitals and have always been treated promptly if it is a serious illness (yes you have to wait if you appear with an earache or sore throat as they take you in order of severity). We have never had to think twice about how much this is costing as we never get a bill.
I get so angry every time I see that woman from Canada say that she would have died if she didn't go to the States for treatment. I don't believe a word of it. She would never have to wait if she had a life threatening illness. I would like to know what her motive is to say these things on television
Our system does have its challenges as we have lost some specialists to the States because they can earn more there but I'll take our health care over the U.S. anyday. I also understand that our cost per capita is lower than the States.
Nancy McClellan

Literal blood money funds record US private insurance profits at the expense of the sick and dying. Yesterday, insurance industry whistleblowers Dr. Linda Peeno and Wendell Potter testified before Congress about the myriad devious ways the insurance industry maximizes profit at the expense of patients, including funding front groups to shape health care reform to their own ends. Their testimony should dispel any remaining illusions that the private insurance industry is providing any positive benefit to the American people.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Schwitzer published on August 13, 2009 10:36 AM.

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