Health care reform has been on the agenda of every level of government in the country for the past two decades, not to mention every health and academic institution and think tank. Citizens have been bombarded with messages that the public system is not sustainable without “meaningful” system change. A common theme heard from elected officials is how hard it is to push change, there is just so much public resistance.
Michael Moore, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, makes great movies but they are not generally considered "cliff-hangers." All that might change since a whistle-blower on the Democracy Now! news hour revealed that health insurance executives thought they may have to implement a plan "to push Moore off a cliff." The whistle-blower: Wendell Potter, the former chief spokesman for health insurance giant Cigna. He was quoting from an industry strategy session on how to respond to Moore's 2007 documentary Sicko, a film critical of the U.S. health insurance industry. Potter told me that he is not sure how serious the threat was but he added, ominously, "These companies play to win."
It's been a year and a half since I left off writing about the crucial, politically charged and bureaucratically overwrought subject of health care, awaiting developments with the new government. Recently, I've been looking for signs of where we're at.
National discussion in Canada on the Conservative government's new healthcare financial ultimatum, a take-it-or-leave-it-style proposal, largely revolves around myths. First that financing alone is key to securing a sustainable public healthcare system and second that free-market economic winds will provide sustainable guidelines, via GDP, for viable future government healthcare financing.
A surprise delivery from Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to provincial finance ministers, over a fancy lunch-in at the Chateau Victoria Hotel this past Monday, the plan offers no space for negotiation toward collective national solutions for public healthcare.
Imagine you're feeling sick. You have an inexplicable pain in your stomach. So you go to your doctor, and she sends you for a test. The test for your stomach pain is inconclusive.
"I think I know what the problem is. And I probably have something I could give you for it," says your doctor. "How about you pay me an extra $50, and then we can discuss it further?"
Most of us would think that's unacceptable. We already pay taxes to finance our universal health care. We would want our doctors to run more tests, give us a diagnosis and write us a prescription.