Advertisement

Why Canadians are Laughing at Us

Why Canadians are Laughing at Us

By Richard Reeves - October 31, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas -- A guy walks up to you in a bar here and asks, "Are you a Republican, conservative or independent?" You can't tell if he's kidding. After all, this is the most liberal place in the state. It's also where I first heard about Shona Holmes, the Canadian lady.

Holmes, a 45-year-old citizen of a place called Waterdown in Ontario, has become the Joan of Arc of the battle against health care reform in the United States. As she tells it, OHIP, the acronym for the "free" (taxes pay for it) Canadian health care system, sentenced her to burn at the stake by putting her on a waiting list for analysis and treatment of what she calls a "brain tumor." Actually, it was a benign cyst near the brain. The technical name is Rathke's cleft cyst, a fluid-filled sac that grows near the pituitary gland. It can be painful and affect vision, but it is not life-threatening.

A group called Patients United Now -- "people just like you," says its Web site -- is sponsoring television commercials featuring Shona Holmes in all 50 states. (I don't know if he is just like me, but an industrialist named David Koch is the principal financier of the Holmes campaign.) She is traveling our country making speeches and television appearances comparing the Canadian system to the Inquisition, saying she would have died waiting to see a doctor in her country. Instead, she says, she mortgaged her house, borrowed from neighbors, crossed the border and had the cyst removed at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Cost: $95,000.

She seems to be, right now, the most hated woman in Canada. Newspapers are defending OHIP; bloggers are saying if she doesn't like Canada she can (and should) get out. A few voices are calling for Holmes to be deported. The Ottawa Citizen called her "disgusting."

Canadians apparently love their system. A columnist for the Calgary Sun, Stephen Lautens, attended a conservative forum in Florida and sent back this report:

"When hearing the horrors of the Canadian health-care system being described last weekend, all I could do was wince. ... 'Would (you) like to speak to a real, live Canadian about our health care,' I asked (two ladies in a bar)?

"'Can you pick your own doctor?' was the first question. 'Because we hear the government assigns you a doctor in Canada.'

"You indeed pick your own doctor, I assured them. ... It was also not true, I said, that it takes months to see your doctor. Mine complains she doesn't see me enough. There are gaps in our system, I confessed, where there are unacceptable wait lists for some kinds of surgery -- hips and knees and other things in demand.

"'What's your health-care premium?' they wanted to know. They quoted theirs as being a couple thousand dollars a month. Their jaws dropped when I told them there really isn't one and everyone is covered from birth.

"At this point, a small crowd had gathered around me at the bar to hear the Canadian tell his magical tale of health-care coverage. I told the story of breaking my shoulder in a fall, having one of the best shoulder specialists in Canada put it back together, a few days at the hospital and nine months of physiotherapy. The cost?

"Thirty-five dollars, because the sling I went home in wasn't covered."

The "disgusting" thing from an American perspective is the low level of the health-care debate. Or is it the gullibility of millions of Americans? The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, along with Fox News, has used the Shona Holmes story to attack health-care reform. True or not, it is interesting stuff, except for one thing: The American reforms being discussed are not at all like the Canadian single-payer system.

So, Canadians, with longer, healthier lives, are yelling at Shona Holmes and laughing at us.

Copyright 2009, Universal Press Syndicate

Richard Reeves

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter