Letter to the Editor
U.S. conservatives continually and loudly proclaim that the Canadian health care system is so bad that Canadians must seek treatment in the U.S. to save their lives. At the opening of the new U.S. Congress, Representative Steve King, Republican and Tea Partier from Iowa, declared that the health insurance reform passed last year will make health care in the U.S. as bad as that in Canada.
I was, therefore, astounded at Canadian conservative Paul Jackson writing in El Ojo that “Canada’s health care system is three-star not five-star, but since I can’t afford to stay in five-star hotels either, I’ll settle for a three-star government-funded health care system,” and that in Canada “we are better off than under the varied USA systems”! That comports with everything that Canadians have told me about their system, but it is diametrically opposite to the conservative mantra in the U.S.
Perhaps five-star care is available in the U.S. to those who can afford to buy it. (I’m a two- or three-star guy myself.) But I strongly suspect that the millions of U.S. citizens who now lack access to health care of any kind would be grateful for the three-star variety. That surely would have been the case for the two Arizona citizens currently in the news who died because they didn’t have the money to pay for the treatment needed to save their lives and the state’s medical assistance program wouldn’t help them, and 94 other Arizonians are now facing the same fate.
Jackson contradicts his conservatism, however, when he also writes that “Canadian doctors are drastically underpaid.” As he should surely know, under free-market capitalism, labor is a commodity that, like every other commodity, is subject to the law of supply and demand. The correct payment for labor is the lowest wage for which the laborer is willing to work. (Executives are, of course, subject to a different rule: they are to be paid some three-digit multiple of the wage of an average employee.) Free-market capitalists oppose minimum wage laws and labor unions precisely because they may require employers to pay higher wages than individual laborers would work for. Because Canadian physicians are willing to work for what the health care system pays them, their compensation is, ipso facto, correct. I wonder what Jackson thinks about Mexican physicians who are willing to provide services, even to us gringos, for compensation that is surely less than what their Canadian colleagues receive.
Canadian physicians, like Mexican ones, are apparently motivated by a desire to practice medicine in order to help suffering people. In the U.S., on the other hand, many physicians, most hospitals, all insurers, and other elements of the health care system are simply in business to make as much money as they can. That critical difference accounts for the fact that the U.S. spends far more than Canada or any other developed country on health care with results that, according to all objective criteria, such as infant mortality and longevity, are not as good.
Kenneth G. Crosby
San Antonio Tlayacapan