July 7, 2009

CNN's Dana Bash does a report on the Canadian health care system, and as its center piece she features the person Mitch McConnell has been using in his Senate floor speeches as an example of what's wrong with Canadian health care. How many similar stories of people in the United States being denied coverage because they don't have any health insurance at all does anyone think CNN could be doing if they went out and looked?

In fairness, Bash does point out those that disagree with the generalizations about the system, and that the Democrats are not trying to get universal health care here in the United States. That said, seeking out the person McConnell has been citing in his Frank Luntz talking points on health care as the main portion of the segment strikes me as nothing short of Republican propoganda.

As our own Jon Perr has more on McConnell fear mongering about the Canadian health care system:

In his demagoguery regarding President Obama's health insurance proposals featuring a "public option," Senator McConnell trotted out horror stories from Canada and the UK to illustrate "health care denied" by "government-run" systems. But as the New York Times suggested, McConnell's examples of Canadian Shona Holmes and Briton Bruce Hardy in essence made his opponents' case for them:

What Mr. McConnell did not disclose was that Ms. Holmes paid for her treatment, at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, on her own - an option that is available to patients with financial resources all over the world regardless of their nation's health insurance system...

As for the case of Mr. Hardy, the particulars seem to make it hard to tell how his situation differed from the countless Americans who battle their private insurers every day for access to the newest, most advanced and most expensive treatments.


Despite Mitch McConnell's grandstanding, Americans' health care is frequently denied - even when they are already paying for it.

And so it goes. Back in 1993, GOP propagandist William Kristol famously mobilized his Republican colleagues, warning that Bill Clinton' success with health reform could lead to a Democratic majority for a generation. His talking point then was "no crisis." 16 years later, Mitch McConnell is frightening Americans with dark visions of a future system where health care is denied, delayed and rationed.

The future is now.

Transcript below the fold.

BLITZER: The federal government's role in health care is under the microscope right now as President Obama pushes for health care reform by October. Dana Bash has been looking into Canada's system which covers everyone and is free but there are drawbacks. Let's go to Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when the Senate's top Republican speaks out against the government-run health insurance plan, he says it could lead to government control of the health care system, and he warns the U.S. could end up like Canada, with treatments delayed or denied. So we came here just north of the border to Ontario to see for ourselves and separate rhetoric from reality.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going to feed the fish?

BASH (voice-over): For Shona Holmes, simple pleasures, playing with her dog, walking in the garden, are a gift. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, told if it wasn't removed, she could go blind or die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt at all.

SHONA HOLMES, ONTARIO RESIDENT: I realized right after the surgery how bad my vision was.

BASH: She is Canadian but for her surgery, she went to the U.S., because it would have taken four to six months just to see specialists in Canada's government-run health care system. The only option here.

HOLMES: All my life, I lived in this country with public health insurance, and I always thought that I would be OK, that everything would be fine.

BASH: So this is basically all of the surgery. Her bills at the Mayo Clinic where she was treated totaled $100,000. She borrowed from family and friends.

HOLMES: It's having dinner with my friends, I know how much money I owe them.

BASH: Republicans in Washington are seething on her story and other accounts from Canada to warn against government involvement in health care. Dr. David Zelt is chief of staff at Ontario's Kingston general hospital. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell singled out Kingston as exhibit a of staggering delays in Canadian care. We played his speech. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Knee replacements. At Kingston General, the average wait is about 340 days.

BASH: His response, McConnell is exaggerating.

DR. DAVID ZELT, KINGSTON GEN. HOSP. CHIEF OF STAFF: Average time to get a knee replacement here is 91 days.

BASH: But he does admit in Canada's system where the government covers everyone, there are limits and shortages. Some patients do have to wait.

ZELT: I'm not going to say we don't have issues, but again, if you take the other side of the coin, these patients have access.

BASH: Despite Shona Holmes' horror story, Canadian officials insist most patients with life-threatening problems are treated quickly. Doug Wright can attest to that. He has cancer, a tumor on his leg. He's got the money to get care in the U.S. but says there's no reason.

DOUG WRIGHT, TORONTO RESIDENT: I've not had to wait. I've seen some of the best specialists in the country.

BASH: Though taxes are high here, he and others remind us Canadian health care, available to all, is free.


BASH: Now, to be clear, no Democratic health care plan now on the table calls for the kind of government-run system they have here in Canada. But consider this statistic. All Canadians have health coverage. That's 33 million people, compared to 47 million, that's just the number of uninsured in the U.S. -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Dana Bash in Canada for us. Thank you.

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