Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stuff I Just Don't Understand...

OK, due to the whims of geography and my parents, I ended up being born a Canadian in the latter half of the twentieth century and I plan to continue to be one into the latter half of the twenty-first. If I happen to still be alive in the early part of the 22nd, maybe I'll finally be inspired to want to change that (or just leave the house), but personally? I wouldn't bet on it.

As a Canadian during the aformentioned period, I've enjoyed the benefits of a public health care plan. Well, enjoy them may be overstating it--I'd have been happier if I never got rear-ended by a car, had years of back problems, chronic nausea, and, since I moved to Edmonton, month-long flareups of CRIPPLING FACEPAIN!(tm). But given that all that stuff did happen and continues to happen, I can only thank my lucky stars that I'm in a country that doesn't actively discriminate against the poor when it comes to health issues (or at least, doesn't discriminate to the degree that countries with no public health plan do.)

This isn't to say things are perfect up here. I actually pay money I can't really afford into two expanded health insurance plans, one as a secondary beneficiary to Tiina's coverage (which she got at my urging), and one recently introduced (and half paid for by) Happy Harbor Comics for its employees (I don't know that I ever mentioned how awesome I think it is that Jay and Shawna elected to do that, but it is pretty damn awesome for a company to put such a thing in place when there's absolutely no requirement for them to do so--in seven years as a commercial painter at three different companies and I never came across the concept of a company policy... I actually thought it was strictly an American thing.)

Even with that coverage, I've still ended up forking out a couple hundred dollars for partially-covered dental care. T's lost a hundred or two on eye care in the last two or three months. And then there's issues of preventative health measures, at least some of which aren't covered (a friend has shelled out thousands of dollars over the last year to get corrective foot surgery so she could walk with less pain, which doesn't seem right.)

So the Canadian system isn't perfect, but it's there, for everyone, and if things happen to get ugly, well, Canadians know they're covered. Over the last couple years, I've had an EEG, an MRI, a couple electrocardiograms, and appointments with a variety of specialists. It took awhile to get some of those, but whatever problems I've got don't seem to be killing me directly, and I did eventually get all of them, and they cost me nothing but time, which is pretty much the one thing I can sometimes afford at the moment. This seems natural to me.

I honestly cannot grasp the mentality that holds to the idea that a rich person's health is more valuable than a poor one's. And to my mind, when you boil it down to its essence, this is precisely the utterly unconscionable mindset opponents of public health care actively promote.

I haven't watched a Michael Moore movie in a few years. Wasn't that impressed with Fahrenheit 9/11, never saw Sicko. While I tend to agree with his positions on the issues, his onscreen character has started to rub me the wrong way for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that his very presence in his work oftentimes seems to overwhelm the important issues he's raising.

I don't know when exactly I concluded that Moore had stopped being a documentarian and become a propagandist. Odds are he was always the latter and, seeing as I generally agreed with him and was being entertained, I didn't notice. In this day and age, propaganda's pretty much omnipresent in the lives of anyone with a television, computer, or weekly church visits. Personally, I'm more interested in the propaganda produced by those I disagree with. I take it, examine it, find the flaws, and discredit it. And because it's propaganda, there are always flaws. "Government-run programs are wasteful; as much as possible should be left to the private sector because it's more efficient." One look at Medicare says otherwise, but even beyond that, I'd rather get my health care from someone who's looking to actually help the sick rather than to improve the bottom line. Maybe it's just me...

The problem with Moore's propaganda is that it works both ways. Any time he distorts facts to make a political point, he gives his (and my) opponents a line to attack not just himself, but the wider position. I have some pretty extreme ideological positions, I'll admit, and in the face of, well... reality, some of them won't hold up, much as I'd wish it otherwise. But sometimes, the unvarnished facts--like "There are millions of people in the USofA who need health care and either cannot afford it or are actively denied it by private insurers"--really ought to be all it takes to get anyone with a molecule of human compassion on the right side of an issue.

To make the point that "Everyone deserves a certain degree of healthcare, regardless of their circumstances", you don't need to present the standard wait time in a Canadian hospital waiting room as 20 minutes or less (with the exception of the accident, I've never spent less than a couple hours waiting in the Emergency Section, which, though I and my excruciating back pain would've preferred to get the inevitable demerol shot 3 1/2 hours earlier, is not a criticism--other people were bleeding and dying, and I did get eventually get the shot, which I paid for with time and discomfort, both of which I had to spare, unlike money.) By making it seem like that's the case, as Moore apparently does in the clip I'm going to link to below, he invites opponents of health care to point out that there's a Canadian schmuck writer who had to wait four hours in agony before getting a shot, and in doing so imply that the system doesn't work, when it actually does. It might not work as fast as it does as the current system in the US does for the wealthy, but it works for everyone, and on balance, there's more of everyone than there are wealthy people, so yeah. Paris Hilton might have to suffer briefly for the greater good. Life is rough.

I mention Moore because, while I don't watch him much anymore, I'm still on his mailing list. Occasionally, something of interest that I didn't catch wind of elsewhere in my internet journeys makes its way through. One of those happened to be over this last week, when I received a mail linking to a clip of a Bill Moyers interview with Wendell Potter, ex-VP and chief media flack of the private American health insurance company Cigna.

The mail's focus re: the clip was the tactics Potter and others used in trying to minimize the damage Moore's "Sicko" might do to their public image, which I was faintly interested in. What interested me more, however, was what Potter said on either side of the clip, which led me to watch the entire interview, which I highly recommend to anyone harbouring any doubts about the need to change the American health insurance system.

Potter's surprisingly forthright in talking about both his role in helping kill a public healthcare option in the States, and in condemning private health insurers for putting the bottom line ahead of their clients' health. I'm not sure I buy the explanation for his conversion to the side of angels, but I can't see any particular benefit for him coming out and calmly but firmly eviscerating his former employer and their ilk. It may be too little too late, but it's something.

On a related note, pretty much every comic-related blog I read this week has made mention of the plight of GRIMJACK writer and co-creator John Ostrander. The short version is, Ostrander has a private insurance plan, but that plan apparently didn't cover the costs of surgery he required to not go blind. But hey, at least he's insured, right? He's one of the lucky ones.

Just not lucky enough to be Canadian.


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