John Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 24, 2009

John Howell Sr.

Panola transplant touts Canada’s socialized medicine

Interesting, the response to the February 13 subject of this column, “Socialized Medicine.”

The column observed the contempt generally held for the term and posed a question about just who benefits from the concept of socialized medicine or — by another name, universal health care — being so loathed.

That it is held in contempt was evident from responses. A letter writer accused me of “fuzzy liberal thinking.” He is correct only in the latter. Provocation of thought was the object.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Fuzzy thinking was evident in one online comment whose author deduced, “If you back socialized medicine then you back socialized government, right?”

Online commentator “John” accused me of using “cherry-picked statistics” — the longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates in France, England and Canada compared to the United States. John also suggested that I write another column and explain, among other anomalies, “why Canadians swarm across our border for health care.”

But the only person I know who has crossed the border for health care went the other direction. Panola County native Steve Still — son of longtime Panola Tax Assessor-Collector the late J. V. “Buck” Still, brother of former Batesville Alderman-At-Large Hudson Still — didn’t exactly “swarm across” the border seeking Canadian health care. He just married a Quebecois and moved up there.

“Man, have I got stories to tell about Canada’s health care system!” Steve writes. “It took me over a year to get qualified so I could have the ‘magic’ Quebec health card. During the time I was waiting, every time I would have to go to the doctor, (unfortunately that was a lot because I had two hernias and an ongoing infection from previous hernia surgery in 2001) I would have to pay cash upfront for every test and doctor visit,” the former Panola resident continued.

“Finally I got my status as a permanent resident and got my health card. Boy, did that open a lot of doors! Long story short–I got the best health care I have ever received, got it in a timely fashion, and, best of all, it was free! I hear people complain up here about wait times, but really not that much. In their system, they can, and in my case they did, bump you up to the top of the list if the situation warrants it,” Steve stated.

Steve has dealt for years with a number of medical challenges, including  hernia-related problems for which he sought treatment in Memphis, New Orleans and Oxford.

“They all would give me antibiotics that never worked. Up here the first time I went to see a doctor about this, he ran a couple of tests, told me what the problem was and recommended me to the top surgeon in Quebec City who handles these difficult cases,” he stated.

“This surgeon is so popular,” Steve continued, “his waiting list is 4 or 5 months just to see him. But my doctor called him up and he saw me 3 days later. After he examined me and heard my story of living with this for 8 years, he scheduled me for surgery for 1 1/2 weeks after our first visit. He said I had been living with this long enough!

“I told you this story in detail because this is my first-hand experience with socialized medicine; not what someone told me or ‘heard about.’ Sure I pay for this in taxes but it’s damned well worth it! And the best thing about it is everyone gets it free and has access to even the best surgeons regardless if they are rich or poor. I’m sure there are drawbacks because no system is perfect.

 “But you know something, America is the richest nation in the world and yet it doesn’t have any kind of system in place like this. Makes you wonder where our priorities are doesn’t it? We can fight useless wars that we can’t possibly win and send people into space but…

“The same doctors that are available for the rich are available to the poor, and it is free. Why does that get anyone upset?” Steve asks.

In quoting so generously from Steve’s first-hand experience, I have cherry picked. But remember, the question posed in the original column: “In whose interest is it — doctors, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, hospitals or all of them — that we would learn to so disparage the idea of socialized medicine?”

Perhaps online commentator Max demonstrated the best thinking on the subject: “If we had corporations who had at least an inkling in their planning of ‘Is what we’re doing good for America’ instead of looking out for number 1 totally, we wouldn’t need socialized medicine or any of the other socialized aspects of socialism our government has taken on over the past 20-30 years,” Max stated.

“Our government, both parties, are responsible for passing laws that allowed greedy corporations to write the laws to benefit themselves and pay through lobbyists to have them implemented,” Max continued.