Canadian Health Care and More

As someone with both United States and Canadian citizenship, I know something about government-run universal health care.

During a nine-year residence in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, I came to Santa Barbara on vacation in 1997 but was soon forced to seek medical attention for severe heart-related chest pain. A cardiologist at the Santa Barbara Cardiovascular Medical Group diagnosed my case as urgent and recommended quadruple bypass surgery within days. But I chose to return to Canada for surgery under the national health plan. (I had already had my diseased gall bladder removed there by the then-new “keyhole” method in 1990.)

Back in Victoria, a gruff British-Canadian cardiologist agreed that my case was urgent, but told me of an eight-week wait for surgery “because of a patient backlog.” He assured me, though, that if I had a recurrence of serious chest pain, “We’ll get you in for surgery right away.”

My eight weeks passed anxiously but without urgent symptoms. And then I was cared for by my own chosen physician and specialists in a Victoria hospital that was efficient, clean, and comfortable. The eventual procedure-a quadruple heart bypass-went well. And no bill.

(Similar waits for major surgery reportedly drive thousands of Canadians to the United States annually for treatment that’s ruinously expensive unless they have private insurance.)

A final note on another subject for Sarah Palin: My Canadian parents both spent their last years at government expense in a resort-like, lakeside nursing home in Ontario province. No “death panels” for them.

So, come on, President Obama, don’t buckle under to your raucous, misinformed critics. Give us national health care for everyone.-Ken Botwright, Santa Barbara

• • •

Sure, we’re all afraid of what a major reform of our health care system could mean to each of us. It shouldn’t be so frightening, but because we’re being played like puppets by our political parties and the corporate-owned media, most of us either haven’t a clue what this issue is all about or purposefully choose to be in the dark. (That’s how America works today.)

But then, isn’t “fear” the state our federal government and media have wanted us to be in since 9/11? Tom Ridge, the former Secretary of Homeland Defense, has admitted that the White House told him when to increase the terrorist threat level: Just before the 2004 election the administration deliberately wanted to ratchet up the public’s anxiety over a domestic terrorist attack. (Does knowing this seriously NOT offend you as an American?)

Every day our corporate news media feed us information aimed at a grade-five sophistication level that is either entertainment disguised as reportage, or commentary pretending to be news. (U.S. journalism is in such a state of decline that we’re ranked 37th in terms of freedom of the press.) Still, most of us, whether on the left or right, have such a certitude in our beliefs that many of us don’t notice or don’t care. Why shouldn’t we embrace willful ignorance? It takes so much less effort to “know” something rather than “learn” anything, doesn’t it?

So, let’s all do our level best to create anger, fear, and hatred toward each other as the nation dithers back and forth over whether to join the rest of the free world in treating access to health care as a basic human right instead of a corporate-managed product that is packaged, sold, and misrepresented as something its not: reliably available and a good value. Let us all raise a toast to the American worker, American taxpayer, and American voter and celebrate our unique ability to endlessly deceive ourselves that all is good and pure from sea to shining sea.Steve Bonser

• • •

January 19, 1736 James Watt was born in Scotland. He was a very clever and resourceful man, and he and several others eventually developed a steam engine that was reliable and practical. More importantly, perhaps, it was portable! It could be put anywhere and with only water and fuel (wood or coal) it would power machinery. There was no longer a need to establish factories near streams to harness the waterpower.

The industrial revolution was thus launched, about 1800. But with it came a need for employees. And it was soon evident that workers who could read and write were valuable to industry. Up until that time most of those who were educated to read and write and to do basic math were either schooled at home by tutors or parents, or sent to small private academies.

Now it became apparent that if schools were established for the youngsters of the ordinary members of society, they could be valuable workers in the factories. Schools were established and made available to all and the costs were initially essentially borne by the landed gentry and the wealthy factory owners. Socialized education was born, for the advantage of all. Those who had been trained (conditioned) to get up in the morning, eat a bite of breakfast and get to school on time, were now expected to get up in the morning, eat a bite of breakfast and get to work on time.

With the money they earned the workers were able to pay the rent, pay the grocer, as they did not now raise their own food, and to buy some of the very products they were producing. Everyone prospered and everyone benefited. There were of course many abuses, but in time most of those were overcome and a fair system was put in place.

Today there is great concern about the United States becoming too socialistic. This common fear is largely generated by the many abuses by the Communist regime that became the Soviet Union. But today the United States is the only industrialized nation that has not recognized that a common health care system, paid for by all and available to all, just as our education system is, would be of great benefit to all.

So may we please put aside our “knee-jerk” reaction to the idea of a universal health care system and begin to establish one for the same reasons we have a socialized education system. And for the same benefits.

All industries would profit by not having to provide health care programs to their employees. The only industry to suffer would be the health care insurance industry, which would collapse without a profit motive. A by-product would be the immense savings in managing such a system compared to the convoluted and massive system we are experiencing today. The Canadian and similar systems employ a small fraction of the number of administrative personnel needed by the current US system.

We should also note that for many of the poor in our country today, we are already paying for their care. But in too many cases, rather than allowing for early recognition and intervention, it becomes the less effective and more costly effort to mitigate the trauma of diseases and afflictions. I know of a case of an indigent young woman who was diabetic, became legally blind and had significant cardio-vascular issues. Had she been diagnosed and properly treated at an early age the she might have lived a full and productive life. Tragically she died in her early forties, leaving two young sons without a mother. Their fathers had divorced her years earlier. But we all paid for the care that she did enjoy over the years, making this a double tragedy.

I am aware that I have not perhaps made as clear and cogent an argument in favor of universal health care as some of you who read this will require. But I hope you will at least consider the possibilities that our current system is both costly and less than fully effective in protecting us all from illnesses and afflictions. We can do better. Our rational assessment of the cost to our system of government and industry supports it. Our humanity demands it.-Hugh Smart


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