I’m not sure if this is a shared emotion, but I always feel a strong sense of appreciation every time I leave a health clinic in Canada.  Along with appreciation, I also experience feelings of pride, security, and solidarity, thereby strengthening my identity as a Canadian citizen.  I get an overwhelming sense that my country is taking care of me and the rest of it’s citizens.  That we are all in this together.  That yes, we may pay more taxes but you can never put a price on health.  The trade off is a no-brainer.

I read a very interesting article in The Globe and Mail the other day, which sought to compare health-care systems across the world.  According to the columnist, it turns out that while Canadians are always uber-proud and often pretentious about their health-care system, we need only to look across the pond to instill a little humility into our claims.  The author starts off with an irrefutable claim and one which I’ve seen time and time again with my own eyes:

Anyone who dares criticize the overly rigid Canada Health Act meets a standard reaction: “So you’d rather live with the American system, where 40 million people are deprived of health insurance?” This is an irrational reaction, as if there were only one alternative to medicare.

Is this how Canadians perceive the US health-care system?


The truth is that when it comes to this issue, Canadians often fall victim to a sense of tunnel vision, seeing our neighbours to the south as proof that when it comes to health care in this country, we have hit the ceiling.  This is a phenomenon that is only strengthened and reinforced by movies like Michael Moore’s SickoSicko, displaying  Michael Moore’s questionable neutrality, managed to portray the US health-care system as a monolithic evil, sending uninsured patients out into the street, making patients choose between two fingers because they can’t afford both, and retired couples forced to move into their children’s house because they’ve spent too much on medical services.  To be fair, Moore does travel to London and Paris (as well as Canada) to see what they have to offer.  His prognosis: positive.

But even with these travels, the film was remembered for it’s fervent attack on the US system, strengthening our (already high) sense of superiority when it comes to our ability to care for our own citizens.  Hey, he showed Americans coming to Canada for free health-care.  It must be perfect!

But the point of the article is that this tunnel vision could lead to a sense of complacency, to feelings that our system is perfect and ideal, and hence not in need of change.  One need only look at other countries not named America for some tips and advice.  The proof is in the numbers:

The European model is successful, indeed. According to the last World Health Organization ranking, in 2000, the top 20 countries with the best overall health performance were all in Western Europe, except for Singapore, Oman and Japan. France was No. 1; Canada placed 30th and the U.S. 37th.

Oh, but in terms of our immediate needs, this little crisis going on right now should take centre stage.  For now, I will be satisfied with free doctor visits with the swipe of a health card.  I will appreciate the fact that it could be worse (US), while never losing sight that it could be better.

I’ll leave you with what is, in my opinion, the best scene from Sicko.  Enjoy!



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3 responses to “S.O.S?

  1. Leigh

    You might find this article interesting:
    I especially like the European criticism of Canada’s health care: ‘There would be a revolution here if we had that kind of problem.’

    However, I share your sense of gratitude every time I see a doctor with no charge and very little hassle. I currently have to go to the dentist and it is both irritating and expensive, and the thought of having to face the same ordeal to get medical attention is dreadful.

    It does bother me, though, that we have no public drug insurance, even though pharmaceuticals are now the primary treatment for so many ailments – it almost seems as though we insure diagnosis only in those cases.

  2. Leigh

    I hadn’t read the Globe article you linked yet, but I see now it is essentially the same content as the article I mentioned.

    • jamesmccallum

      Ya it’s true that any antibiotics after diagnosis must be payed for but I guess I’ve gotten used to that. Maybe the complacency I mentioned in the post? But still, being able to visit doctors and talk through problems for free is a really comforting thing.

      Another funny thing about the article was some interviews with some French people saying that their system has deteriorated because it was getting harder to schedule house calls! House calls!

      Anyway, thanks for reading bud. BTW, I got into Concordia. Looks like that’ll be where I go.

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