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Apr 18

Groundhog Day and the great health care debate. Again.

It's Groundhog Day Everyday!I was reminded recently how much I enjoy listening to Michael Rachlis, Canadian health policy analyst and well known expert on the Canadian health care system. He was being interviewed on CBC ‘s the Current regarding health care and the upcoming Federal election. He had me, hands down, when he said this “for me, it’s Groundhog Day everyday…we keep having the same stupid health care debate over and over”.

The debate that Dr. Rachlis is referring to hinges on one question: can we afford to sustain our universal, publicly funded, single payer health care system? The debaters on both sides of the issue seem to be living in different universes: equally convinced of the truth of their reality, and the sheer folly of the other. Hence the Groundhog phenomenon, regardless of the evidence trotted out. It’s taken me a while, but I finally figured out that it isn’t about evidence. A fellow named Stephen Chase reminded us that for those who believe, no evidence is required; for those who do not, no evidence is sufficient. So, can we sustain our health care system? It depends. I believe we can (in fact, I believe we can’t afford not to), and I’ll vote for the person who can give vision to that belief.

So, there’s belief, and then there’s acting on that belief. It seems to me that all of us, right from individuals up to the Federal government—we all have a procrastination problem when it comes to matters of health. I’ll exercise tomorrow, I’ll lose that extra weight I gained with my last pregnancy…soon…(never mind that my youngest is almost 21..that’s 21 years, not months BTW); work-life balance…yes I’ll get right on that…maybe in my NEXT job). Awwww, come on, give me a break, it’s HARD!  Bottom line is: the longer I wait to act on my belief that I can get healthier, the harder it is to do, and the more urgent the issue becomes—as many of us discover when we develop high blood pressure, diabetes, or some other distressing health concern.  Same goes for policy makers when it comes to sustaining (or improving) the health care system. I think most of us (ordinary Canadians) believe we can do it, but we know it will be hard work—harder now that we are experiencing the after-effects of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression… harder now that we have allowed the weakening of our system by the opportunistic infection of privatization…and harder because we have let our system become a political football to be punted around by folks that don’t have the inclination or ability to look beyond the next election. So, what to do?

Dr. Patrick J. White (President of the Alberta Medical Association and fellow Irishman) has called publicly for “a social movement” on this issue—to take to the streets and let our politicians know that it’s OUR system, and demand they enact policy that not only sustains, but sets the conditions to improve our system. You have to love the Irish, rebellion is in our genes! At the very least, let’s demand an end to this “stupid debate” and get on with it. 

That today’s rant. Thanks, I feel better.

What do you think? Does the 1 step forward, 2 steps back approach to health care reform make you a little crazy too?

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