Reality Check on Health Care Comparisons

While the Canadian health care system is not on the table in this country and is not what I would like to see, the scare stories from the right are still ridiculous. Conservatives attack the Democratic proposals, which are quite conservative when compared to the health care plan in Canada, with warnings of becoming like Canada. An op-ed in The Ottawa Citizen provides a reality check, beginning with the title and subtitle: A reality check on a reality check. For years, Canadians have feared the American health care system; now Americans are being told to fear ours.

The column proceeds to debunk claims about a case used by conservatives as an example of Canadian care and compares this with actual health care in the United States:

Holmes has become the darling of conservatives and the stop-public-health-care movement in the United States. She’s testified before Congress, been on Fox TV as well as CNN, and her story is retold on hundreds of right wing blogs. She’s now doing a nasty TV ad for Patients United Now, a Republican-led group opposed to Obama’s reforms. You can see the ad at The group is spending almost $2 million on it to target politicians in Washington.

For a person living with cancer, the idea that someone’s care could be unreasonably delayed is truly scary. It also doesn’t reflect the experience I’ve had or the experiences that have been shared with me by so many other patients. Even CNN interviewed Doug Wright, a more typical patient in Toronto who is receiving very speedy treatment for his cancer.

Still, I found Holmes tale both compelling and troubling. So I decided to check a little further. On the Mayo Clinic’s website, Shona Holmes is a success story. But it’s somewhat different story than all the headlines might have implied. Holmes’ “brain tumour” was actually a Rathke’s Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. To quote an American source, the John Wayne Cancer Center, “Rathke’s Cleft Cysts are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts.”

There’s no doubt Holmes had a problem that needed treatment, and she was given appointments with the appropriate specialists in Ontario. She chose not to wait the few months to see them. But it’s a far cry from the life-or-death picture portrayed by Holmes on the TV ads or by McConnell in his attacks.

In Senator McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, one out of three people under age 65 do not have any health insurance. They don’t have to worry about wait times for hip or knee replacement or cancer surgery — they can’t get care. The media household income in Kentucky is $37,186 — not quite enough for the $97,000 bill at the Mayo Clinic. CNN didn’t mention that in its “Reality Check.”

As the debate on health care reform heats up the United States, it seems certain that Canada’s public health care system will be used, or more accurately misused, in the battle for hearts and minds. For years, Canadians have feared the American health care system; now Americans are being told to fear ours.

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  1. 1
    jamman says:

    86.4% of Kentuckians between 18-65 have health insurance:

    For the uninsured in Kentucky:

    Here is where Uninsured Kentuckians can go to get FREE MEDICAL CARE AND PRESCRIPTIONS:

    John Hensley
    Kentucky Department for Public Health
    502/564-8996, x-3773

  2. 2
    Eclectic Radical says:

    While the link is interesting, I’m not entirely sure how accurate it is or just what it is trying to convince me to think. 86.4% is a very high number, and it looks to be pretty clear that the presentation is counting people with Medicaid as ‘insured.’ While they are covered while they are on Medicaid, certainly, it is not the same as being ‘insured.’ Ron can tell you the joys of dealing with Medicaid on the medical side, and my father used to work as an elgibility worker for Medical (California’s version of the program) and so I have some knowledge of the ‘consumer’ end of the program through him. It really isn’t the same as being ‘insured.’
    A study including Medicaid recipients among the ‘insured’ population strikes me as possibly lacking in other areas as well, honestly.

  3. 3
    Andy says:

    This article really debunks the myths that fuel the right’s fear propaganda machine…
    And Ezra Kleine put together a real informative primer on the basics of the differences between single payer, public option etc…

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