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As the primaries loom closer, we can expect the Democratic presidential hopefuls to start singing their usual sanctimonious song about the health care system. You probably know the lines:

40 million citizens turned down;
No insurance to go around;
Emergency wards on hold;
Poor kicked out in the cold.;
America … immoral … immoral … immoral!

Taking their cue from Michael Moore, these do-gooder Democrats are also sure to sing the praises of Canada’s health care system.

But I’m here to tell you their song sheet has some serious omissions – somehow they fail to mention the brain-drain, the bloated bureaucracy and a waiting lists so long it has become a driveway to the morgue.

Big government advocates tell us Canada’s system is public, accessible and free. And many Canadians believe them. In fact, some stake their national identity on it. It is, we are told, what distinguishes Canadians from the brute reality that is American individualism.


Raisa Deber, a professor at the University of Toronto, says Canada’s system is one of the world’s finest. “I don’t understand how [the U.S.] got to this worship of markets, to the extent that they’re perfectly happy that some people don’t get the health care that they need.”

Granted, Canadians have swallowed this medicine like some kind of metaphorical aphrodisiac. It helps some of us feel superior and certainly makes for fantastic fabrication, not to mention huge box-office sales for a guy like Michael Moore, but take it from real Canadians: state-controlled health care doesn’t work.

Jane Pelton lives in Ottawa. She has a teenage daughter, Emily, who tore a ligament in her knee. Her case sheds some very sad light on Canada’s health care system. Pelton was told that her daughter would have to wait three years before the country’s “free and accessible” system could provide the necessary surgery. “Every day we’re paying for health care, yet when we go to access it, it’s just not there,” said Pelton.

That gets us to one of the salient points. The finances.

For a system that’s supposedly “free,” Canadians sure pay a lot. The average Canadian family pays about 50 percent of its income in taxes each year, of which the lion’s share goes to health care. In tangible terms, that’s $3,300 for every man, woman and child. And that, in turn, works out to about 10 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product. Comparatively, the U.S. spends more – about 14 percent of its GDP. But when you consider that the U.S. has 300 million people compared to Canada’s 30 million, and that health care expenditures in Canada topped $100 billion in 2001 alone, you know what the real sicko is: Canada’s health care system.

Ms. Pelton did what every good mother would – she jumped the queue. She spent $3,300 to fly her daughter to a private clinic for the arthroscopic surgery. That amount for immediate surgery sounds like nothing, I know. But in Canada, it is against the law to use your own money to bypass the waiting list and get private treatment.

And that is why a landmark lawsuit was filed against 12 Quebec hospitals in 2004 on behalf of breast-cancer patients who were forced to take “patience” to new levels. They were forced to find treatment abroad, because they weren’t allowed to pay for private treatment in Canada. One woman flew to Turkey, and another – who had been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer – traveled to Vermont on a four-hour bus trip every week with her 5-year-old son to get access to her treatment.

“The experience was humiliating,” she said.

Waiting for treatment has become the hallmark of – and really the only truly universal thing about – Canada’s “universal” health care system. And it underscores the pervasive injustice of the system, because we are told that “two-tiered” health care will create unfair advantages for the rich.

As far as I can see, there are serious flaws in building a health care system on the principle of envy. And it underscores one of the main differences between our two systems. In America, some uninsured patients get turned away; that is unfortunate. In Canada, everyone is put on a waiting list until they either leave the country for their treatment or die waiting.

And that’s no joke.

As a letter from a hospital in New Brunswick to a heart patient in need of an electrocardiogram made clear, the appointment would be at least three months off. And the letter added this rather opaque line: “However, if the person named on this computer-generated letter is deceased, please accept our sincere apologies.”

There is something very unjust about not being able to pay for treatment when you live in a supposedly advanced country and you have the means to pay for the treatment yourself.

As for the presidential primaries, it is also immoral to be talking about making 260 million people who can afford their own insurance suffer potential health care hardship so that 40 million can be signed on to a big collective waiting list.



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Tristan Emmanuel, M.T.S., is the founder and president of ECP Centre – Equipping Christians for the Public-Square. He is the host of “No Apologies,” a weekly web-radio show dedicated to illustrating the absurdity of political correctness, and he is the author of “Christophobia: The Real Reason Behind Hate Crime Legislation” and “Warned: Canada’s Revolution Against Faith, Family and Freedom Threatens America.” Emmanuel writes as a Christian cultural apologist, defending the need for advocating and living out a comprehensive cultural Christianity today.

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