Canadian healthcare in an American debate
I wrote earlier this year about how Canadian health care is seen as a “bogeyman” in U.S. debates on healthcare reform, a conduit for creeping socialism and all things un-American.
But let us at least be clear about one thing: Obama’s proposed health care reforms are far from the single-payor universal care scheme in Canada. Though the details are unclear, the President’s current proposal (that will likely emerge out of committee in Congress) is simply including a public medical insurance option among the now predominant private HMO plans. The public option, so the theory goes, will help drive down costs through competition, forcing private insurers to reign in spiraling costs.
These facts, however, have changed little. Despite the clear differences between the Obama plan with the Canadian system, conservative groups are putting together documentary style attack ads featuring Canadians and Brits recounting “horror stories” from their respective healthcare systems in a bid to stop President Obama’s healthcare reform. With a bit of searching, I haven’t been able to find out how legitimate or accurate these “first hand accounts” really are. But the implication is clear: the Canadian way is public and bad, and since the Obama plan offers some public measures, it’s also bad. The Republican alternative plan rejects any public option.
Putting aside the question as to which plan is the better option, it is hard to see how this attack ad campaign can be successful in the long run: there are just too many differences between a single-payor universal healthcare system, and one where the government is one option among many. Ironically, the Canadian health care system is transforming from bogeyman to red herring. It’s a focus of the debate, even though the debate is about something entirely different.