When Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., went on the radio Saturday to warn listeners against health care proposals before Congress, she referred to her own breast cancer experience. It took six doctors, three mammograms and an ultrasound — all within weeks — to find the cancer, she said. In Canada and the United Kingdom, where there is government-run health care, she said, "I wouldn't have had the opportunity to get those tests so quickly." She surely left many listeners believing government-run health care was being proposed.
That was deliberately misleading — or shamefully misinformed. But some of the reaction to it has also been misleading or misinformed. As one letter to the Observer Forum said, "She [Myrick] also fails to mention that all of her medical care is free — paid by the U.S. government." Others have made the same claim.
But Myrick's health insurance isn't free. As a member of Congress she buys insurance through her employer, the federal government. She has a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, and did when she fought breast cancer.
Nevertheless, her implication that the bills under consideration would create a government-run system are just as incorrect as the free-insurance assumption.
Myrick also implied Canada and the U.K. have the same health care system. They don't. In the U.K. doctors work for the government — like our Veterans Administration. Canada's health care is more like our Medicare: Government funds reimburse private doctors.
It's true wait times are longer in Canada for some procedures. What's also true is that Canada's overall health outcomes, and those in the U.K., are better than those in the U.S. if you measure infant mortality, life expectancy and preventable deaths.
Republicans contend a proposed publicly funded insurance plan — optional and restricted to those who can't buy insurance any other way — would be a "gateway" to a government plan. But no matter how much you don't like it, it is not "government-run health care." They say a public option would be too attractive, and consumers and employers would drop private plans and flock to it. (And they think an attractive, affordable option would be a bad thing?)
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