The United States has some of the world’s best hospitals, yet millions of U.S. citizens are unable to access their services, making their existence meaningless to large sections of the population. Many die each year due to a lack of insurance and the greatest cause of bankruptcy is unpaid medical bills. Looking from the outside, it is clear that the American Health care system is about profit, whereas the value of a single human life is priceless.
As a Canadian, I often find myself laughing at the mendacious tales of woe that the AMA and insurance companies put in their advertisements about our system. There is a reason Tommy Douglas, the creator of our healthcare system, was voted Greatest Canadian in 2004. We may be dissatisfied with long wait times in emergency rooms and doctors’ shortages in small towns, but no Canadian has died due to a lack of funds in the case of a medical illness since our system was created. Medical treatment is decided between a patient and a doctor and not some government bureaucracy, as is often stated in these misleading advertisements.
Simply showing proof of government coverage, e.g. an O.H.I.P card, allows Canadians access to hospitals, general practitioners, and specialists. I suffer from three chronic illnesses and I have never paid a single cent for the MRI’s, Cat Scans and various other medical procedures that my primary physician has deemed necessary for my care. I currently reside in a small town and therefore I must travel to a larger city for the majority of my care. While this is certainly an inconvenience, the government pays for my travel expenses and that of my spouse. We are also allowed a food allowance, depending on the duration of our time away from home. My physical therapist comes to my home for treatment weekly and this is once again co-ordinated with my primary care physician.
In Canada, it is understood that preventative care is often cheaper and leads to a better standard of life than waiting until the medical issue becomes serious and/or life-threatening. In the U.S., single-payer healthcare is often touted as mounting the slippery slope towards socialism. This rhetoric preys upon largely outdated Cold War fears and fails to acknowledge that the U.S. is already socialist to a small degree.
There are no pure capitalist countries in existence; education, welfare, food stamps, and social security are all examples of the ways in which the US currently has a socialized system. Though right wing politicians have been hard at work trying dismantle the New Deal, capitalism is such a predatory system that it is impossible to maintain without elements of socialism.
Socialism has been equated with the perversion of communism that was embarked upon by the former U.S.S.R. Many Westerners falsely equate communism with a lack of freedom because they are completely unaware of the political theories penned by Marx and instead have allowed communism to be understood through a lens of capitalist propaganda. Just as no true capitalist state is now in existence, no true communist state has ever existed. Communism is the idealized state as theorized by Marx, and therefore would not exist at the same time as capitalism.
Western capitalists prey upon the fears of many regarding government control, or intervention into individual lives. This ignores the invisible hands of the owners on the means of production and how it affects our daily lived experience. If you cannot afford a place to live and food to eat, or are unable to access medical care, this is a direct result of the bourgeoisie stranglehold on commodities and finance. What is in the best interest of the proletariat is not in the best interest of the ruling elite and this is why they are determined to construct any movement towards collectivization as damaging. Though all possess the same basic human needs, class divisions ensure that the desires of the rich and powerful are readily met, even if they represent a smaller percentage of the population.
Any move towards socialization or the redistribution of wealth necessarily empowers the proletariat. Socialized healthcare will improve the life of the working poor, as well as raise social consciousness. This what lies at the heart of the single-payer health care debate.
Even the poorest Canadian citizen has a higher standard of living than a poverty-stricken American, because of our larger social safety net. In light of this, we must remember that human beings are an interdependent species, despite the current predatory individualism we have been taught to idealize. The sooner that the poor and the working class realize that the ruling elite will only act in its own best interest, the easier it will be to release the unjustified fears created by the bourgeoisie. Health care is a human right. Its commodification is but one of many of the perversions of the capitalist system.