Bonnie wrote this piece last fall before Obama was elected President of the US…
Like many Canadians, I’m fascinated by U.S. elections, and generally disappointed by
the outcome. Having lived in a superb government health care system since the early 1970s,
I wonder why Obama isn’t hammering at this issue. I feel like screaming at the part of McCain’s stump speech where he says, "Do you want a bureaucrat standing between you and your doctor?" – and everybody boos.
Guess what? In the 35-plus years in which Canadians have been blessed with health care, I haven’t encountered one bureaucrat – just a lot of wonderful doctors and nurses and some excellent hospitals. And no, our taxes don’t seem particularly high – or maybe I don’t notice as we don’t have to pay medical insurance. We simply have health cards with our names and photos on them, and show them when we use the system. Every Canadian citizen is eligible, and so are legal immigrants.
Three of the four of us in our household owe our lives to the speed and and efficiency of Canadian medicare, and I wish my American friends could benefit from something similar. My 7-year-old granddaughter was a four-pound preemie. It was terrifying watching this tiny creature, but she blossomed in the loving neo-natal intensive care ward at our local hospital. She’s now the tallest, brightest kid in her class.
In 2004, I was finishing writing a book, and delayed my regular mammogram by seven months. (These are free in our system for all Canadian women over 50.) Just before I set out on a cross-Canada PR tour, I found a tiny lump near my collarbone. My family doctor squeezed me in, and I was quickly in treatment for early breast cancer. I’ve had clean mammograms ever since. Another score for the health system.
Then there is my husband. On his annual checkup in 2006 (paid for by the government), he mentioned to our doctor that he sometimes felt a tightness in his chest after his morning walk. She immediately organized a series of tests and within two weeks he was recuperating from a quadruple bypass. I’ve often wondered if Tim Russert would be alive today if he’d lived in Canada, where even slight chest pains are a signal that a diagnostic process must be followed. As I understand, Russert’s doctor did not persuade him to have an angiogram, which could have found the blocked arteries that cost him his life.
Now it’s my turn again. I’ve been suffering from chest pain all summer, and have undergone a series of tests, the latest one being an angiogram on Sept. 8. I was terrified at the thought of something so invasive – an incision in my femoral artery, then a tube running up to my heart with a mini-camera to take photos. But the nurses in the "cardiac catheter department" were so warm and supportive that I stopped worrying. The procedure took about 20 minutes; they fed me carrot muffins and orange juice afterwards and the doctor told me that my arteries are excellent. We still don’t know what the problem is, but I’m confident we’ll find an answer.
In all of these procedures, our only expense was the parking.
I wish Obama could convince the citizens of the world’s wealthiest nation that they deserve, and can afford, a health system as good as ours. Having universal health care could actually help the U.S. economy and reduce unemployment: many U.S. corporations are moving their operations to Canada because they won’t need to pay their employees’ health care. I also understand that the average lifespan of a Canadian is about three years longer than in the U.S.– despite our miserable winters.
Bonnie Buxton is a Toronto journalist, and author of the book, "Damaged Angels," published in the U.S. by Avalon in 2005. She has written countless magazine and newspaper articles.