Wading through the noise: Rhetoric, assumptions and the truth

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reserach hspital
There is world-class research and treatment within Canada's single-pay medical system

I learned long ago that the same story/subject can often be seen from diametrically opposite perspectives, yet it is possible (if you keep your mind and eyes open) to get closer to the truth.

My 18 month-term on the sub-editor’s desk at the Bulawayo Chronicle in Rhodesia turning Zimbabwe taught me that the same person can be a “freedom fighter” or a “terrorist based in Mozambique” — the code word under military censorship rules for Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe. Fast forward 35 years, and many (including rabid white racists in the US) would say the “terrorist” description has proven accurate, but, oh, if you could be there, you would know quite well that the truth was actually far more nuanced.

tshirt
This T-shirt is undoubtedly utterly politically incorrect and I’ve outgrown it in the 36 years since I wore it in Bulawayo, but it shows how beliefs can depend on your perspective. If I wore this in some parts of the US, I would be seen as part of the Alt-right racist movement.

There are similar hot potatoes especially in the wild and crazy US electoral season. Take the arguments against “Obamacare,” where some politicians compare to the Canadian single-pay system, asserting that it has caused real pain in this country.

Other than the rather blunt demographic fact that Canadians live on average longer than Americans, the fact is the Canadian model helps to foster entrepreneurship and business start-ups and — at least from personal experience — the care here is quite good.

I missed yesterday’s posting because of the Jewish Yom Kippur fast, coupled with the discovery of a scary sight in my left eye — it had turned bloody red. (Under Jewish law, you are supposed to fast and pray all day on this religious holiday, but the law has one important exception — if your health is at risk, you must do what you need to do to preserve it.)

As our family doctor himself is Jewish, the choice came: Go to emergency. I can’t say it was a luxurious experience, but the system worked properly. The triage clerk correctly prioritized my situation — not life critical but certainly a valid reason for an emergency department visit. (He said, when I mentioned I didn’t expect to be able to see my family doctor right away, that the doctor probably would have referred me to emergency.)

About 45 minutes later, an emergency department ophthalmologist looked into my eye, explained the condition isn’t at all serious, and gave me a fast-track referral to the hospital’s eye institute — one of several world-class medical services in our mid-sized Canadian community. Yesterday, I took a break from the religious services to visit the hospital and two more ophthalmologist indeed confirmed that the condition, while scary-looking, is truly one of the least concerning eye conditions in the medical diagnostic book.

Phew.  There’ll be another follow-up appointment next week, plus a prescription for some eye drops.

The total cost for this experience: Some $10 for parking at the hospital and perhaps a few dollars for the co-pay on the private supplementary prescription plan my company can easily afford to pay premiums for me and our employees. (The plan covers things like dental, hospital room upgrades and travel medical insurance when we visit the US. The total cost per employee and family is about $180 a month, which we share 50/50 with employees.)

Now, consider some hidden benefits of this tax-funded system. If individuals in Canada wants to start a new business, they don’t need to worry about their health insurance costs. And if their business is established (and small), they don’t need to pay onerous health insurance fees as benefits to their employees. Sure, taxes are higher, but of course business expenses are deductible, so the stress on costs on start-ups is quite low.

I am not going to convince anyone that the Canadian system is better if you believe in the US model. And there are situations where US care truly would be better than Canadian, especially if you are covered by US Medicare coupled with private insurance. Then you can have a true luxury care experience. These are polarized positions and challenging perspectives and you will find some Canadians caught in waiting lists who would dearly like to jump the queue and join the US bandwagon.

Your perception of truth depends on how you see things. In marketing, you can develop psychological techniques to capture “votes” from potential clients and preserve the relationships you have with your current customers. Quite a large percentage of the population won’t think — they will hold fast to their stereotyped assumptions. I’m thankful that 35 years ago, rather than just reading the news, I went to experience it first-hand. I know however that it is hard to change anyone’s perspective.

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