I’ve blogged about health care before – 17 times, to be exact. Some of those entries have been comparing certain aspects of US and Canadian health care from my own personal experience (see July 14, 2007 and July 15, 2007).
Now comes the raging debate in the US – along with well-funded but serious and frightening misinformation about what Americans might expect with broadened accessibility to health care. Don’t be taken in by isolated examples (sorry Shona Holmes) from Canada. They are, at best, misleading, and at worst, false.
It is a basic tenant of logic that one cannot extrapolate from the singular to the universal: John is a murderer, and John is a man, therefore all men are murderers. The same lack of logic applies to the healthcare debate: Shona Holmes had a bad health care experience, Shona Holmes is Canadian, therefore all Canadians have bad health care experiences. Or Willie King had the wrong foot amputated so had a bad health care experience, Willie King is American, therefore all Americans have bad health care experiences.
But it’s precisely this lack of logic that our friends at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation are pushing (a la Swift Boat), through their funding for Patients United Now. (A note of irony: Americans for Prosperity Foundation also has strong ties to the tobacco industry, including fighting anti-smoking legislation. You might think they’d support health care access, given their agenda to make sure more people need it thanks to smoking . . . but I digress.)
One of the tag lines from the anti-health care talking points is that here in Canada, we have a bureaucrat between us and our doctors. That causes guffaws from every quarter – no one I’ve talked to has ever experienced such a thing! We choose our own family doctors (yes, there are places with family doctor shortages, just like some places in the US), and usually our family doctors manage our care and make referrals to specialists.
There are exceptions – like when I broke my leg, the hospital did not try to get in touch with my family doctor for a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. Instead, I had the orthopedic surgeon on call that day. He remains my orthopedic surgeon, and was the one who recommended me to my awesome ankle specialist. (Compare that with my mother’s broken shoulder experience, where there was no orthopedic surgeon on call at her hospital in Virginia, and it took her nearly a week to see one. Ooops, there’s that singular-to-universal thing again, but I’m only using it as an example.)
Typically, a family doctor is more than willing to refer a patient to the specialist of the patient’s choice. There are no HMOs, no “in network” or “out of network” doctors. There are no doctors who refuse to take patients because of their lack of ability to pay, or because of their coverage (as happened with my nephew in the US when he went from private family-funded payments to Medicaid – his treating neurologist who had been his doctor for years refused to see him).
What I don’t understand are the loud protestations – even from the health care supporters – that they are not going for a Canadian system. Believe me, they could do much worse. Oh, wait, they have much worse right now!
I’ll monitor the debate, and will try to blog about my views of it. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart.