When the healthcare debate hits close to home

Do you ever wish you could join in on a stranger’s conversation you happen to overhear at the supermarket or


Do you ever wish you could join in on a stranger’s conversation you happen to overhear at the supermarket or while waiting for the bus? I had a moment  like this while riding the subway here in Toronto this weekend, when I found myself eavesdropping on two young women chatting about U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan for healthcare reform. The two were discussing the issues when one of them said: "As a Canadian, I can’t understand why some Americans wouldn’t want affordable healthcare for everyone."

That’s when I wanted to jump right in (but didn’t because I try to keep my nose out of subway politics). I’ve had the same quandary as I watch the healthcare debates unfold south of the border.

Coincidently, I happened to be on my way to hear former president Bill Clinton speak at the Canadian National Exhibition, and he touched on this very issue. (That picture is from the event. I didn’t have the best seats in the house.) Speaking to a crowd of 12,000 Torontonians who paid anywhere from $5 to $50 to be there (in other words, preaching to the converted), Clinton explained that America’s reluctance to accept healthcare reform stems from people’s fear of change. And then there’s all that money.

In his speech, Clinton referred to the 13th century Italian political thinker Machiavelli, who wrote that there is nothing more difficult than to initiate change because those who profit from the old way will always object and they’re most likely the ones with the power. As Clinton put it in his own charming Arkansas drawl, the money made from the U.S. healthcare system is going somewhere, and that somewhere doesn’t want to give it up.

Political and monetary reasons aside, I have my own theory as to why some Americans might reject the idea of universal health care. In his speech Clinton said that he hoped the late senator Ted Kennedy’s dream that America will follow Canada in providing affordable health care for everyone would come true. That, of course, inspired a huge round of applause, from myself included. I’ve always been intensely proud to live in a country that provides health care for all people regardless of income or status.

But recently, my views have been challenged (not changed, just prodded a little). See, my mother may or may not have a malignant tumour on her thyroid. Because the doctor feels that she is fairly low risk, she has to wait several months for the biopsy that will give her the diagnosis. While our whole family understands that there are people ahead of Mom that are in greater need of fast surgeries, the waiting has been excruciating. Low risk doesn’t mean no risk, and the fact is that we won’t breathe easy for several months. Would this whole thing be easier if we could just pay for Mom to have the biopsy immediately?

What do you think about the healthcare debates in the U.S.?

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