CNN.com reported that Republicans are using "accounts from Canada to warn against government involvement in the health care system" without noting that Democrats have ruled out moving toward a Canadian-style system.
In a July 6 article titled, "Reality check: Canada's government health care system," CNN.com reported that Republicans are using "accounts from Canada to warn against government involvement in the health care system" and that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) "asserted ... that a government-run health insurance option, which President Obama and Democrats want, could lead to a government-controlled health care system like Canada's." But while basing an entire article on reported problems with the Canadian health care system and Republican claims that the Canadian system could be coming to the U.S., the only counterpoint CNN.com provided was the following sentence near the end of the article: "The reality is that despite GOP rhetoric to the contrary, no Democratic plan now on the table calls for a Canadian-like government run health care system."
In fact, claims that the U.S. could adopt the Canadian health care system are "deceptive," as a July 6 Associated Press article noted, because "President Barack Obama and Democrats pushing to overhaul health care want to create an optional, government-run plan to compete with private insurers, not replace them." Indeed, Obama has explicitly rejected the idea of adopting a Canadian-style health care system, and as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) -- who supports a single-payer system -- recently noted: "[T]he Congress is not talking about a single-payer Canadian system. ... So it's kind of a bogus argument."
As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, during a March 26 online town hall discussion, Obama said he did not support enacting a "single-payer system" for health care like the one in Canada, but instead proposed that the U.S. "build on the [employer-based] system that we have and fill some of these gaps." Obama has since embraced the creation of a federally funded "public plan" as one of many insurance options available in the health care market, not the sole option, as in "single-payer" systems such as Canada. Moreover, the current version of the Senate Health Committee's health care reform bill -- sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy and Chris Dodd -- includes a public option to compete with private insurers.
An entry in the Encarta encyclopedia by McGill University associate professor Antonia Maioni summarizes Canada's health care system as follows:
In Canada, healthcare is delivered by private institutions -- hospitals and physicians -- that are not controlled directly by the government. This private delivery system is combined with a publicly financed health insurance system that is paid for by the provincial and federal governments.
Each province in Canada has a separate health insurance system funded by provincial government revenues and contributions from the federal government. The federal government provides funding in a lump sum based on the province's population.
From the July 6 CNN.com article:
For Shona Holmes, simple pleasures such as playing with her dog or walking in her plush garden are a gift.
After suffering from crushing headaches and vision problems, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor four years ago. She was told if it wasn't removed, she could go blind or even die.
"They said to me that you had a brain tumor and it was pressing on your optic chasm and that it needed to come out immediately," Holmes said.
Holmes is Canadian, but the "they" she refers to are doctors at the Mayo Clinic in the United States, where she turned after specialists in her own government-run health care system would not see her fast enough.
"My family doctor at that time tried to get me in to see an endocrinologist and a neurologist," Holmes recalled. "It was going to be four months for one specialist and six months for the other."
Even with the warning from U.S. doctors in hand, Holmes said she still couldn't get in to see Canadian specialists. Because the government system is the only health care option for Canadians, she says she had no choice but to have the surgery in the U.S.
Her treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona cost $100,000, and she and her husband put a second mortgage on their home and borrowed from family and friends to pay for it.
When she recounts that part of her painful story, she weeps.
"That's the stuff that I find so tragic -- having dinner with my friends and I know how much money I owe them," Holmes says, tears streaming down her face.
With the health care reform debate raging in the U.S., Republicans in Washington are seizing on Holmes' story and other accounts from Canada to warn against government involvement in the health care system.
The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, asserted several times on the Senate floor last month that a government-run health insurance option, which President Obama and Democrats want, could lead to a government-controlled health care system like Canada's.
The reality is that despite GOP rhetoric to the contrary, no Democratic plan now on the table calls for a Canadian-like government run health care system.
But in talking to doctors, government officials and even average Canadians, they concede their system is far from perfect, but there is one statistic they are quite proud of: All Canadians have health coverage. That's 33 million people, compared with the 47 million uninsured in the U.S.