WASHINGTON — Throughout the long and divisive debate about health-care reform in the United States, Canada's health-care system has often served as a popular punching bag for both Republicans openly swinging at it and Democrats ducking from any suggestion that Canadian-style reform is in the cards.
It came in for another drubbing this week, just days before a likely vote on a sweeping reform bill this weekend in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This time the attack came from Dick Morris, a renowned political strategist who was once one of Bill Clinton's closest advisers, in an opinion piece entitled "Canada's Healthcare Disaster." The column was published earlier this week in The Hill, a widely read congressional newspaper in Washington, and has since shown up on various political blogs and websites.
In the piece, Morris makes unsubstantiated claims that Canadian doctors are deserting the profession after "more than a decade of public health care with mandatory coverage."
Unions "control the entire health-care process" in Canada, he added. In Manitoba, he wrote, they're to blame for long wait lists since they refuse to allow procedures to be scheduled on nights or weekends.
"The unions are doing to health care in Canada what they have done to education in America - stifling creativity, reinforcing bureaucracy and extending waiting times."
Morris did not respond to requests for an interview on Thursday, but his piece is nothing new in the United States in recent months. It echoes attacks on Canada's health-care system that have come from all quarters: politicians, conservative pundits and even the CEO of Whole Foods, who wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that 830,000 Canadians are waiting to be admitted to hospital or to get treatment.
"I know enough about Canadian care, and I know this bureaucratic, socialized piece of crap they have up there," Louie Gohmert, a Republican congressman from Texas, told Congress over the summer.
"One in five have to die because they went to socialized medicine."
Another Republican congressman suggested Canada doesn't care about old people.
"Life is precious," Georgia's Paul Broun said. "Some would say: 'Well, she's 85 years of age; we should just let her die.' And that's exactly what's going on in Canada and Great Britain today. They don't have the appreciation of life as we do in our society, evidently."
Chris Sands, a Canada-U.S. relations expert at the Hudson Institute in Washington, said Americans are in a period of great uncertainty about health-care reform, so it's not surprising some are looking north to either understand public health care or to demonize it.
"We're in a time when everyone is throwing out theoretical ideas based on what they think they know, and Canada is the great social experiment, it's a laboratory for reform," he said Thursday.
"The problem is we, as Americans, don't know an awful lot about Canada and so we're vulnerable to the demagoguery. Some of us know Canadians and say: 'Hey, Canadians have done this, and they seem healthy, and so it must work.' But others don't. The important thing is to make sure we're having an accurate and intelligent debate, and sometimes that hasn't been happening."
Morris is a political consultant and Fox News commentator who worked mostly with Republicans before becoming one of Clinton's most trusted advisers.
He was Clinton's campaign manager during the former president's successful bid for re-election in 1996, but Morris's tenure was cut short two months before the vote when it was revealed he'd allowed a prostitute to listen in on conversations he was having with the commander-in-chief.
He's since become a harsh foe of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, writing books critical of them.
I know Canada's Health Care system is not perfect but where does one get such information ?
Do Canadian feel like these comments represent their Health Care system ?
I certainly do not feel like my BC Health Care is represented in this light..
Why is it that each time the US talks about Health Care it must drag in Canada or anyone else at that. Can they not build a system of their own to meets their needs to properly cover those not protected by health insurance ?