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WORLD VIEW: How We Look To a Canadian Conservative

August 17, 2009 - 9:21am

President Obama is reaching to the faith community this week for support in his campaign to make sure all Americans have health care. He's already converted, so to speak, one politically right-of-center, Fox-TV watching Canadian clergymen. Rabbi Phil Scheim wrote this email to some colleagues, one of whom shared it with us with his permission. He then let us share it with you. He's not (and we're not) recommending that the U.S. adopt the Canadian system. He just thinks it's time (as we do) that we have an American system that can work for all Americans.

Dear Colleagues:

Were I an American citizen with a vote in the recent elections, I  likely would have voted (pre-Palin anyhow) for John McCain. That said, I have to speak in defense of President Obama¹s attempt to reform U.S. health care.

My personal experience (some 40 years) under Canadian health care, and almost 30 years in a Canadian congregation with well over a thousand hospitalizations in the time I have been here, leads me to the  following: I have encountered not a single instance of a Canadian having had to travel to the U.S., because of treatment being unavailable here.

Yes, there have been issues with waiting times (with  a lot of recent improvement on that front), and there are horror stories frequently broadcast on Fox News (which I do watch!)... But  the overall experience of Canadians is positive, and nobody here would prefer an American system where millions are without coverage, and  where catastrophic illness can bankrupt a family. We don¹t pay a  penny for health care here out of pocket (obviously tax rates reflect our universal coverage, but I¹d rather have higher taxes than be part of a system that denies health care to such large numbers).

Members of my congregation of means (three or four of which I am aware)  have travelled to the U.S. for experimental treatments when conventional  medicine failed... In all cases the experimental treatments failed ­-- but, again, I know of no one who has felt the need to go south for  medical care.

My snowbirds, when ill in Florida, fly back to Canada as soon as they can for treatment, even when they have medical insurance  that would cover their hospitalization in Florida. If care were so bad here, I doubt that they would come home so quickly.

Again, no system is perfect, and ours (Canadian) can certainly stand  improvement, but I wouldn¹t trade our system for yours (U.S.A)  anytime.

I write as one who has great admiration for the U.S., whose politics are generally not on the liberal end of the spectrum, but who, in this case, thinks that serious health reform in the U.S. is needed.