There are a lot of differences between the United States and Canada and the one that we always seem to come back to is health care (and guns, but that’s not what this is about). The sure-fire way to win any argument with an American about how they’re better than you is to say ‘Yeah, well I have free health care.’ Boom. You win.
U.S. senator Bernie Sanders has been outspoken about his admiration for our health care system pretty much since he started campaigning for a better system in the United States. You probably know Bernie from the 2016 election where he ran against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential candidate nomination. One of his biggest platforms is completely revamping the American health care system so that it’s cheaper and more accessible to average Americans.
This weekend, Sanders was invited by Canadian doctors and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to learn the nuances of the Canadian system. He toured three Toronto hospitals and then spoke at the University of Toronto on Sunday. Sander’s Medicare for All bill is partially modelled after Canadian healthcare but he was eager to observe our system first-hand (unlike a lot of Americans who just dismiss it).
— Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne) October 28, 2017
‘We do not in the United States do a good job in looking around the rest of the world and asking the questions that have to be asked,’ he said after the tour, ‘What we heard was incredibly innovative. In fact, [Canadians] are proud to be doing things that are leading the world. I think it is not a fair argument to say that the system here is not a strong system and innovative system.’ A common critique among conservative politicians in the United States is that universal health care is less innovative because it is not private and competitive.
How a country deals with health care for its citizens isn’t just about about medicine or technology. It’s about its core values as a nation.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 29, 2017
Sanders called it a ‘shame and a disgrace’ that 28 million Americans don’t have health insurance and that millions more could lose it in favour of tax cuts for the rich. In the United States, not only could a standard doctor’s visit set you back over $100, prescription medications are significantly more expensive than they are in almost any other country.
— Danielle Martin (@docdanielle) October 29, 2017
That’s not to say that Canada is perfect. Our universal health care is at the expense of higher taxes and our wait times for tests and procedures are significantly more. Our government health care also doesn’t include dentistry or optometry so there are still people without additional health insurance who miss out on those crucial services. And there’s always the fact that most of us are stuck paying for our prescription medication.
‘We need your help. Stand up, fight for your country to do even better, but defend with pride what you have achieved,’ Sanders said in his speech. Then he returned to a refrain you might remember from 2016, ‘The fight of the moment is to take on oligarchs. What we need to do all over the world is to build strong grassroots movements.’ That’s how we got our health care system (and any number of other rights) and it’s how Sanders sees change happening in the United States too.