In his new movie “Sicko,” Michael Moore uses a clip of my appearance earlier this year on “The O’Reilly Factor” to introduce a segment on the glories of Canadian health care. Moore adores the Canadian system. I do not.
I am a new American, but I grew up and worked for many years in Canada. And I know the health-care system of my native country much more intimately than Moore. There’s a good reason why my former countrymen with the money to do so either use the services of a booming industry of illegal private clinics, or come to America to take advantage of the health care that Moore denounces.
Government-run health care in Canada inevitably devolves into a dehumanizing system of triage, where the weak and the elderly are hastened to their fates by actuarial calculation. Having fought the Canadian health-care bureaucracy on behalf of my ailing mother just two years ago — she was too old, and too sick, to merit the highest-quality care in the government’s eyes — I can honestly say that Moore’s preferred health-care system is something I wouldn’t wish on him.
In 1999, my uncle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If he’d lived in America, the miracle drug Rituxan might have saved him. But Rituxan wasn’t approved for use in Canada, and he lost his battle with cancer.
But don’t take my word for it: Even the Toronto Star agrees that Moore’s endorsement of Canadian health care is overwrought and factually challenged. And the Star is considered a left-wing newspaper, even by Canadian standards.
Just last month, the Star’s Peter Howell reported from the Cannes Film Festival that Moore became irate when Canadian reporters challenged his portrayal of their national health-care system. “You Canadians! You used to be so funny!” exclaimed an exasperated Moore. “You gave us all our best comedians. When did you turn so dark?”
Moore further claimed that the infamously long waiting lists in Canada are merely a reflection of the fact that Canadians have a longer life expectancy than Americans, and that the sterling system is swamped by too many Canadians who live too long.
Canada’s media know better. In 2006, the average wait time from seeing a primary-care doctor to getting treatment by a specialist was over four months. Out of a population of 32 million, there are about 3.2 million Canadians trying to get a primary-care doctor. Today, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada ranks 24th out of 28 countries in doctors per thousand people.
Unfortunately, Moore is more concerned with promoting an anti-free-market agenda than getting his facts straight. “The problem,” said Moore recently, “isn’t just (the insurance companies), or the Hospital Corporation and the Frist family — it’s the system! They can’t make a profit unless they deny care! Unless they deny claims! Our laws state very clearly that they have a legal fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits for the shareholders … the only way they can turn the big profit is to not pay out the money, to not provide the care!”
Profit, according to Moore, has no place in health care — period.
Moore ignores the fact that 85 percent of hospital beds in the United States are in nonprofit hospitals, and almost half of us with private plans get our insurance from nonprofit providers. Moreover, Kaiser Permanente, which Moore demonizes, is also a nonprofit.
What’s really amazing is that even the intended beneficiaries of Moore’s propagandizing don’t support his claims. The Supreme Court of Canada declared in June 2005 that the government health-care monopoly in Quebec is a violation of basic human rights.
Moore put me, fleetingly, into “Sicko” as an example of an American who doesn’t understand the Canadian health-care system. He couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve personally endured the creeping disaster of Canadian health care. Unlike him, I’m willing to tell the truth about it.
(Sally C. Pipes is the president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute. She is the author of “Miracle Cure: How to Solve America’s Health Care Crisis and Why Canada Isn’t the Answer.”)