Of guinea pigs, Canadian and American
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others
Hamsters being a prominent theme at the moment, here's a thought you might want to think on [or not] -- for a couple of generations now we've all been guinea pigs in a huge medical experiment. Having [cough] borrowed the graphic from YES! Magazine, I'll go ahead and lift the opening paragrapghs of the accompanying article as well.
Should the United States implement a more inclusive, publicly funded health care system? That's a big debate throughout the country. But even as it rages, most Americans are unaware that the United States is the only country in the developed world that doesn't already have a fundamentally public--that is, tax-supported--health care system.
That means that the United States has been the unwitting control subject in a 30-year, worldwide experiment comparing the merits of private versus public health care funding. For the people living in the United States, the results of this experiment with privately funded health care have been grim. The United States now has the most expensive health care system on earth and, despite remarkable technology, the general health of the U.S. population is lower than in most industrialized countries. Worse, Americans' mortality rates--both general and infant--are shockingly high.
The article goes on to detail how 35 years ago Canadians and Americans were equals in health status, the amounts they paid for health care, and the methods by which they paid. But the Canadians, like all other civilized countries [and some not-so-civilized], figured out that the much-vaunted private market was delivering a lousy product.
There are a number of systems for publicly funding health care [more on those in a future post maybe]. The Canadians chose a national health insurance model and implemented what we've been calling 'single payer' -- where the government is the one and only entity that manages the money in the insurance pool and pays out as needed.
Canada's isn't quite single payer, actually. Each province/territory is its own payer, making their system an amalgamation of 10 single payers. Nor did the whole country switch at once. In the 1960s Saskatchewan made the leap, and by the 1970s the rest of the country wanted what they had, so in the 1970s all of Canada switched over to Medicare, which works pretty much just like our Medicare, except that in Canada everybody can go to the doctor, not just the old folks.
The transition was not a smooth one. Rioting broke out in the streets, doctors went on strike, and predictably the blood-sucking, money-grubbing insurance companies refused to give up the fight gracefully. Tommy Douglas, the Premier who was back then vilified for trying to bring socialism to Saskatchewan, was in 2004 voted The Greatest Canadian of all time. The current crop of Presidential candidates should take note.