BY RON DU BOIS
At Sen. Tom Coburn’s recent Town Hall meeting in Stillwater, when asked the question so many Canadians ask – “Why don’t Americans want what we have?” – he promptly reeled off all the serious problems of Canadian health care. He said the outcomes are worse in Canada for multiple medical procedures compared to the U.S. He even claimed that healthcare in Canada is “rationed.” He cited the case of a woman with two medical conditions [breast cancer and a broken hip] who was forced to choose treatment for one at the expense of the other.
Rationing of healthcare in Canada is laughable, a strange delusion, yet most of the gullible audience lapped it up without questioning it.
When it was stated that Canadians live longer and infant mortality is better in Canada, he seemed to agree about infant mortality and blamed it on Medicaid, something that doesn’t exist in Canada where the same quality of medical care is available to all regardless of wealth or poverty. In other words, medical health programs for the poor are peculiar to America and not found in other advanced nations where there is equal distribution of quality healthcare to all regardless of ability to pay or station in life. This doesn’t mean it’s free. It’s paid for through taxation.
An obvious disconnect neither he nor the audience seemed to understand was that if things were really so horrible in Canada why is it that 96% of Canadians “wouldn’t have it any other way?” Canadians must be really stupid to like all the horrible things that Sen. Coburn believes are true.
Why is it that only Americans speak loudly about the horrible medical care in Canada – not Canadians themselves? Is it possible that Sen. Coburn is in the pocket of the for-profit medical insurance industry which would do anything to prevent a sensible non-profit single payer system [paid for by public taxation].
It is recommended that all concerned readers go to the website for Manitoba Health, firstname.lastname@example.org, for facts not fabrications. Or go on- line to the white pages of any Canadian city to pick at random the name and phone number of any Canadian.
He asked me directly, “Do you believe healthcare is a right?” I replied, “Every advanced nation with the sole exception of the U.S. believes healthcare is a basic right.”
Sen. Coburn flatly opposed this idea. To him, treating medical health care as a “right” would be the ruination of America.
The Oklahoma audience with few exceptions applauded this. He flatly rejected the enlightened view of other advanced nations that “paying for the healthcare of your neighbor makes for a stronger nation.”
An unasked question was, “Do you think you have the right to public education, to a police department, fire department, postal system, a military, public roads, safety and security?
The answer would be “Yes!” to all of this, yet when it comes to healthcare the senator as so many Americans makes a glaring exception. Could this be a “thinking disorder” of Sen. Coburn and those who applaud him?
Other nations spend 10% of GDP and cover everyone while the U.S. spends 16 % and is indifferent to 47 million uninsured. If things are as horrible in Canada as Sen. Coburn claims, why would Canadians elect Tommy Douglas, the founder of public healthcare, as “The Greatest Canadian”?
Again how do we explain the disconnect between what Americans like Sen. Coburn think about Canadian healthcare, and what Canadians themselves think? Why do Americans continue to say what Canadians are not saying? If things are so bad in Canada why don’t Canadians speak out against their terrible healthcare system? Why do they support it, put up with it, have good things to say about it, and express gratitude for it? Certainly they never face medical bankruptcy, the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.
Apparently Americans believe it would be illegal to pick up a phone and talk to a real Canadian. If fact-challenged Americans would simply communicate with Canadians they would learn that “the facts” as presented by Sen. Coburn are in fact fabrications put out by the private insurance industry in order to protect their profits. The embarrassing and terrible fact is that Americans are willing to let their sick neighbors who can’t afford medical care die [some 40,000 per year]. That doesn’t happen in other advanced, humanistic-based nations like Canada. Unfortunately it happens here big time. Sen. Coburn did not dwell on these unpleasant facts.
Could it be that Sen. Coburn suffers from delusional thinking, known to psychiatrists as a mental disorder? To those afflicted with this disorder the delusions are so real there’s no point in explaining that the delusions exist only in their minds. Isn’t this a question we all need to ask about ourselves?
Sen. Coburn is not a listener; rather he is a master of glib rhetoric, a verbally gifted, agile, acrobatic responder. The “facts” are always on the tip of his mobile tongue, yet when he cites how horrible things are in Canada, shouldn’t he also cite the horrible facts about medical care in the U.S.?
For starters: The World Health Organization now ranks the U.S. as 37th in the world in quality of healthcare, Canada No. 10 and France No. 1. The latter two both have public health care systems as does every other advanced nation with the sole exception of the U.S. If the definition of a “great nation” includes social contributions, like Medicare, how great is America?
Yet to a mesmerized audience Sen. Coburn is “right on.” Is it possible that Americans like him suffer from a thinking disorder that requires treatment and medication, as opposed to the people of other advanced nations who don’t suffer from this affliction? Unlike the U.S. these nations were wise enough to opt for universal healthcare some 50 years ago and continue to support and benefit from it. Why can’t our healthcare cover everyone and cost far less – i.e., be as good as theirs?
– Ron du Bois is a retired Oklahoma State University professor, co-founder of Oklahomans for Universal Health Care and a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Stillwater, OK.