-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The Republican spin machine is in overdrive working on their plan to replace a government-run program (Medicare) that directly pays health care providers with a program that would funnel taxpayer funds to private insurance companies (Vouchercare). They are trying to convince the media that their plan to end Medicare is actually a plan that creates a "new, sustainable version of Medicare."
As Atrios puts it, "when we replace the Marines with a pizza, we'll call the pizza the Marines."
Part of the Republican's effort to frame the issue has to do with the portrayal of the Canadian system, that is also called Medicare. One often repeated claim is that "so many" Canadians coming to America for their health care. Pay-for-play think tanks are ever-willing to write a "study" supporting that claim.
However, a comprehensive study in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs, entitled "Phantoms In The Snow," provides evidence of a different answer. The report surveyed United States border facilities in Michigan, New York, and Washington, those closest to all those Canadians clamoring to get into the U.S.
As can be seen from the table above, almost 40 percent of the facilities reported treating no Canadians, while an additional 40 percent had seen fewer than ten patients. In addition, conditions categorized as emergency/urgent and pregnancy and birth, constituted about 80 percent of the stateside admissions. It's unlikely that a Canadian would waste the transportation time to come to the U.S. in an emergency. The pregnancy/birth cases are obviously Canadians looking to create "anchor babies."
As soon as the "hoards of Canadians" story gets shot down, we get the story that Canadian doctors are leaving for the U.S. The actual evidence is that, in each of the years 2005 and 2006, 122 Canadian doctors, out of over 60,000 active physicians in Canada, came to the U.S. I have no data on how many returned.
While wealthy Canadians can afford to seek out the very best health care anywhere in the world, the meme, that Canadian patients and doctors are so dissatisfied with Canadian Medicare that they come the U.S. in droves, is not supported by the evidence. A realistic view of the Canadian system with its shortcomings and strengths is not part of the Republican agenda.