Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sicko and the Health Insurance Lobby in America

How many Canadians would prefer having an American-style private medical insurance system, rather than our own, national system of univeral health care?

Personally, I've never met one.

With this question in mind, nonethless, view the film below Think of it as a sneak-preview of what the American health insurance lobby's response to Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, is going to look like:

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan, who originally linked to this video. For more on Richard Baker and his company, Timely Medical Alternatives, both featured prominently in the video, see this article from The National Review of Medicine:

"The Canada Health Act will come tumbling down," declares Richard Baker, the president of Timely Medical Alternatives, a Vancouver-based company that sends patients to the United States for faster treatment.

... Mr Baker's company has seen a sharp rise in demand for Canadian patients seeking faster treatment outside the country recently; their revenues have doubled in the last six months and they are seeing more and more patients (including, said Mr Baker, a deputy provincial health minister's wife whom he refuses to name).

A bit of Googling found Mr. Baker to have participated as a speaker in "Miracle Cure: How to Solve America's Health Care Crisis and Why Canada Isn't the Answer, " a September 2004 conference at Washington's Heritage Foundation.
The conference's synopsis:
America has wealth, innovation, and access to the best of everything. So why is our health care system so broken? Why does it cost more than ever and deliver less? How do we solve the problems of the uninsured and seniors who lack drug coverage? And equally important, why is the Canadian system, widely touted as a sparkling example of compassion and universal access, actually a disastrous model to be avoided?
The Heritage Foundation is a Washington-based right-wing think tank, largely financed by conservative billionaire, Richard Mellon Scaife (of Swift-Boat Veterans and Paula Jones financing fame). According to its mission statement:
Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute - a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense..
For an example of where the Heritage Foundation stands on health care reform, see its June 2007 research paper, Competition: A Prescription for Health Care Transformation:
America is going to have either a government-run health care system in which politicians and bureaucrats make the key decisions or a consumer-driven system in which key decisions are made by individuals and families. Presented with a clear choice, Americans will support a market-based program that is compatible with their values, particularly personal freedom and personal responsibility.
Based on the company Mr. Baker keeps in Washington, would it be impolite to ask who exactly is financing all of his planned litigation to topple universal public health care in Canada? And for that matter, who financed the video above?
As to the key point in the video, it is well-established that unacceptable wait times for MRI's, consultations with specialists and certain surgeries are indeed the Achilles heal of our current system. I do not want to imply any position otherwise.
Inordinate wait times are one key area, in a health care system that is for the most part a godsend, requiring real attention and increased funding. This shortcoming is rightly a preoccupation in our national, political debate, and must be rectified.
The notion that ours is a "disasterous model", however, is pure spin. Public health care, flaws and all, remains, a source of comfort, pride and security to Canadians.
Let's be clear - there is absolutely zero appetite in Canada for an American-style system, its arbitrary HMO's, children with no medical coverage, and emergency care costs that lead to inevitable bankruptcy.
In any event, with Sicko opening this weekend, and with health care reform expected to be a major issue in next year's US elections, expect Canadian health care to be on the receiving end of relentless, ill-informed and undeserved criticism from the health insurance lobby and its conservative supporters south (and north) of the border.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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