So, my post on health care has been getting some attention, (I encourage you to go read the diverse comments left over there) and the main question I seem to be getting again and again, is HOW did you get those fears of Universal Health care in the first place?
First of all, when I describe myself as a die-hard republican, believe me I was. For my first election in 2004 I voted for Bush, and a few weeks before moving to Canada I voted for McCain. I believed that abortion was always wrong in every case, I believed that “gay marriage” was wrong, I believed that welfare programs were unnecessary because if every woman just got married to one man and he supported her and her kids there would never be a need for welfare, I believed that Christian rights and privacy were being violated by the government on a regular basis, and I believed that public schools were bad scary places. 4 years later, I am no longer a Republican.
I remember being on a mommy chat board during my first and second pregnancies and someone started a thread on costs of prenatal care and childbirth. I mentioned that my uninsured home births had cost between six and seven thousand dollars each and felt proud that my costs were so low compared to many people who spoke of struggling to pay bills even higher than mine which their insurance did not cover, such as for anesthesia and hospital stays. Others were uninsured because they were self-employed, or had to pay over thousand dollars a month for their private health insurance. People in Australia and Europe chimed in, shocked that anyone had to pay for anything. I felt sorry for them, I had been taught to not listen to anyone else who was not like me, I believed that those people were part of an evil system that they had no control over. In other words, I believed the lies I had been told rather than the stories of people who actually lived every day with Universal Health Care.
I was afraid of Universal Health Care, because I knew nothing else but what I had been told by religious propaganda and conservative think tanks. They repeatedly spread the idea that Universal Health Care took away all choice. I was told that people were assigned doctors, and were not free to choose a different doctor. I was told that older people were denied health care and left to die because they were not a priority to the national interest. I was also told that abortion was pushed heavily on any woman who had an unwanted pregnancy or women who were pregnant with a child with disabilities. I was told that people with disabilities would be eliminated by government encouraged abortions or possibly even killed at birth (they wouldn’t want those people on the federal dole since they would “waste money” and “drain the system.”) Universal Health Care was often tied in my mind to places like China with their one child policy, places where the choice to have a large family would not be tolerated.
When I moved to Canada at the age of 23, and was forced to experience Universal Health Care and found that it was actually a good thing for pretty much every person I came in contact with, I began to question what else I had been told could be misinformation. Even the very conservative people I came in contact with in Canada were happy with their Universal Health Care. In Canada large secluded religious sects had all their health care needs met by the government and had no problem with that. The stuff I had been fed was purely propaganda. There was no cap on how many children you could have, no older people left to die, no forced abortions or elimination of special needs people. Even when Canadians complained about wait times and talked of maybe running to the states to get a service faster, after finding out that it would cost them tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket, most chose to wait instead. (And yes I am aware that optical and dental care are not covered, I wear glasses myself. And since I wasn’t spending years paying off emergency room visits or the leftover costs of my children’s births, I could actually afford to take my kids in for dental care every 6 months.) The system wasn’t perfect, but it was a decided improvement on what I had observed and experienced in the USA.
I couldn’t pretend that Universal Health Care was evil any more.
Some could say that my conservative experience clouds my perception of Canadian health care, but doesn’t that apply to everyone? Every past experience influences how we see a new experience. I came to the conclusion that Universal Health Care was beneficial before I changed my opinion on birth control, before my spouse came out to me as transgender and I came to terms with my own sexuality, and before I became agnostic. I wrote about my views on health care from that (past tense) conservative perspective because that is truly what I believed at the time.
I no longer live in Canada (we were not citizens, and were only able to live there for the duration of a job) but I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to observe and investigate how a place other than the USA actually works, instead of hearing only the misinformation of American sources that have never experienced anything but the American system and yet insist it is the best.