I don’t get sick much and generally don’t bother doctors. However, like a great, invisible bulwark behind me, I know that Canada’s health care system is there should I need it.
My first serious illness was a few years ago when I was immobilized by what I imagined was a really bad cold. When I finally dragged myself to the ER, I was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia and admitted immediately. I spent nine days in the hospital receiving the best of care. When I was released, my total bill was $9 for phone rental.
This year, when afflicted with fuzzy vision, the eye doctor informed me I had a cataract and should get it fixed. I dutifully got myself into the queue for cataract surgery and, almost before I knew it, I was fitted out with a brand new eye lens giving me a crystal clear view of the world around me. All this was provided, free of charge, by Canada’s universal health care plan.
Of course it isn’t free. We all pay for it through our taxes and I, for one, am very glad to do so. I can’t imagine having to worry about affording personal health insurance or avoiding the doctor because I couldn’t scrape together the insurance deductible. Or worse, watching some monster health corporation suck up my last penny because I needed medical care at life’s end.
Yes, a modern health care system is expensive to run and ours has its issues. But how much better to bear the cost together, as a caring community, rather than abandon individuals to pay up with everything they have in order to get desperately needed treatment. How horrifying to lie ill in a hospital bed and be regarded as a source of profit. To be torn between an institution running up the bill and an insurance company bent on protecting its own bottom line.
Canada’s universal health care is a major pillar of economic and social stability. It attracts business and industry because companies do not have to deal with medical coverage. It frees workers to move from job to job without fear of losing a health plan. It is essential in keeping our societal fabric in balance, safe from extremes of poverty caused by untreated sickness and medical debt. It lets hard-earned family assets pass on to boost the next generation instead of draining inheritances into the pockets of medical corporations. It costs significantly less per capita than the US system to our south and remains a bargain to the nation. Like education and the vote, decent health care is available to all.
It gives each of us indescribable peace of mind.
This public health care system was begun half a century ago by Tommy Douglas, the idealistic premier of one of our most unnoticed and underpopulated provinces, Saskatchewan, a place that had little but wheat and wind.
As a preacher during the Depression, Tommy had witnessed unspeakable suffering in families that could not afford doctors. Determined that no one, regardless of circumstances, should go without medical care, he went into politics and courageously fought the whole for-profit medical establishment to a standstill. His party did not budge even in the face of a doctors’ strike and vicious, massively funded anti-medicare propaganda that poured outrageous lies into every home. The people still chose Tommy’s compassionate health care plan.
And, guess what — in a recent nation-wide vote to decide who is the greatest Canadian, this scrawny, long-dead politician won, hands down, beating out inventors, sports icons, scientists, Prime Ministers, a Nobel laureate and even our nation’s founder.
Thanks, Tommy. You have my vote too!
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For those interested in how Canadian medicare came about, I recommend Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story