By Jack E. Lohman
Depends on who you talk to.
In a presentation at the Kaiser Foundation, Harvard professor Dr. David Himmelstein said “If you ask Americans what they want, 64 percent of us say we want national health insurance. If you ask Canadians… would they like a U.S. system, 3 percent would prefer it, which is [also] their illiteracy rate.” (This is a must-see video. Click on “Full version” and fast forward to 1 hr 45 min for his speech.)
Could Canada do better? Absolutely. They have wait times for elective care, but according to Canadian James Clancy, president of the public employees union, they have none for urgent care. “And if Canada pulled one of every six people from our lines, as effectively occurs in the US, we’d not have wait times either.”
They could also eliminate their waits by increasing funding from 10% of GDP to 11% — an increase of 10% — and still be well under our 16% of GDP. And they cover 100% of Canadians versus our covering 85%.
Canada’s problem is funding, ours is systemic. They’ve eliminated what we can’t seem to: the middleman insurance bureaucracy that drains 31% of our healthcare costs without ever laying hands on a patient. But the for-profit interests in Canada are heavily lobbying parliament to keep funding low, so wait times get longer, and the people start demanding a US-Style system.
But it isn’t working…. 85% of Canadians still support their own system (12% remain undecided).
None of this matters unless you get sick. Or aren’t a jock and don’t play rough sports that put your body at risk. Or don’t have genetics that could create health problems, like one of your kids beining diagnosed with childhood diabetes.
All of us are an accident or job loss away from being uninsured, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Canada isn’t perfect, and the Healthy Wisconsin proposal only mimics it’s structure. Not its lack of funding. In Canada, you go to the hospital or clinic and then you go home. You never stop at the cash register and you never get a bill. Your only burden is carrying a wallet-sized Medicare ID card.
All Canadian hospitals are non-profit and receive a budget negotiated on the basis of their needs. They have no bad debt that must be cost-shifted because they get paid for all work. They have a billing department, but only for foreign patients.
Canadian companies contribute $800 per employee per year and the taxpayers the rest. U.S. companies pay up to $6500 per year. Is it any surprise that the Big Three automakers now build more cars in Ontario than in Detroit? Is it any surprise that their dollar is now worth more than the American dollar, and their economy is growing and ours is in a downhill spiral?
WE are heading in reverse!
Instead of expanding Medicare, congressional Republicans want to bury it. They are currently fighting a bill the Democrats want to pass and Bush threatens to veto. The Dems want to stop the erosion of payments to physicians and to eliminate the 20% subsidy taxpayers are giving to “private Medicare HMOs” (of which 19% of seniors have opted for).
Why do the R’s want to protect private Medicare providers? Because private companies can give campaign contributions and public entities can’t. Every time we hear “privatization” of Medicare, Social Security or the army, translate that to a benefit for the industries that fund elections — insurance, banking, Wall Street, and Halliburton — and NOT for the benefit of taxpayers.
So think about it. If the current regime succeeds in cutting Medicare payments to physicians by 50% over the next five years, as planned, physicians will quit taking Medicare patients, patients will be forced to join “private” Medicare, and the campaign contributions will continue to flow. And Medicare costs will go up by 20%.
Bush calls that “dying on the vine,” I call it corruption and payola and every congressman is a part of it.