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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Health Care: Canada Cares for People, U.S. Cares for Profits

Our county Dems chair Joan Stamm told me the other day about some cable ads she's seen (perhaps these?) where supposed Canadian citizens tell the camera that the American health care system saved their lives.

Ah, yes, the great American health care system, where my neighbor John Hess just got a 30% premium increase from Blue Cross Blue Shield... and he's not the only one (see also here...). I suspect BCBS must be trying to lock in high rates now in case they have to follow up on those promises to President Obama to control rate hikes in the future. Jack rates 30% now, and rate hikes of "only" 6% the next few years will make them look like angels.

Maggie Yount, nice Canadian girl, car crash survivor... mortal threat to American insurance industry profits.
[Photo courtesy Los Angeles Times]
And ah, yes, the great American health care system, which won't cover Maggie Yount, a healthy 24-year-old woman who survived a coma, brain injury, and 13 broken bones in a horrific crash caused by a drunk driver. She spent three months in a Halifax, Nova Scotia, hospital, receiving "phenomenal" treatment, rehab, the works. She didn't go broke. She didn't have to take out a loan or have her family throw a fundraiser. She'd already paid the bill in full, through her taxes. The government picked up the tab, as it does for every Canadian citizen.

She's in pretty good shape—after an accident like hers, you might say miraculous shape. She says she still struggles with some short-term memory loss... but hey, don't we all? her broken bones have all healed, and she needs no more acute care. Last year, she moved to California and married her American fiancĂ©. Responsible young woman that she is (Canadians are like that), she started shopping for health insurance. No one would cover her. Aetna rejected her because of her " history of traumatic brain injury with multiple fractures treated with hospitalization." Anthem Blue Cross did the same, saying her pre-existing conditions "present uncertain medical underwriting risks." [Read the full story: David Lazarus, "Canada's Healthcare Saved Her; Ours Won't Cover Her," Los Angeles Times, 2009.05.27.]

As David Lazarus points out, in Canada, you do wait for nonessential treatments. But Maggie Yount didn't lie in the road for a week waiting for a doctor. When you get hurt in Canada, you get the care you need. You don't sign forms. You don't end up bankrupt or uninsurable. You get treated like a human being, not a drag on profits.

A single-payer not-for-profit health system treated Maggie Yount like a person. That's what she deserves. That's what Americans deserve. That's what American values demand. President Obama, put single-payer back on the table.

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