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    How to marry a Canadian

    When a Seattle writer tried to recruit some north-of-the-border help in her fight against cancer, she learned how different our countries really are.
    Blogger and cancer patient Jeanne Sather in her red Corvair.

    Blogger and cancer patient Jeanne Sather in her red Corvair. None

    After living with cancer for nine years, I'd learned more than anyone would want to know about the American medical system. So I decided to get closer to the Canadian system – much closer. Last September, I posted this personal ad on my blog, The Assertive Cancer Patient:

    Assertive, adventurous 52-year-old woman, living with incurable cancer, would like to meet a marriage-minded Canadian gent who is a cancer survivor or living with the disease.
    Me: Writer, artist, teacher, well-known cancer blogger. Mother of two almost-grown sons (22 and 17). ... Financially solvent except for absurdly expensive health insurance premiums and medical costs. Dislikes: Pink ribbons, chemotherapy, and unsolicited advice.
    You: Age 45 to about 57. Canadian citizen living in Vancouver, B.C., or willing to relocate there. Cancer patient or survivor. Open-minded. Bit of a risk taker. Warm hearted but not clinging. Bald OK.

    So far, this ad has not netted me a Canadian husband. But it has taught me some lessons about health and happiness north and south of the 49th parallel.

    Health care is a hot-button issue there, just as it is in the United States. About a dozen men answered my ad, but I got many, many more responses from journalists, including half a dozen calls from Canadian talk radio. They showed that two issues get Canadians up in arms: the high taxes they pay to have health care that is virtually free to users. And wait times and access to care. When I appeared on Dave Rutherford's Calgary-based national radio show, he warned that I would have to wait months for an MRI in Canada. (Cancer patients in Canada assure me that this is an urban legend. They get scans and tests promptly.)

    Canadian men don't like red Corvairs. Not one person who answered my ad asked about the car in the accompanying photo: a red 1964 Corvair convertible. In Seattle, this car stops traffic. Total strangers leave love notes (to the car, sigh ...) on the seat when it's parked in public. More strangers approach and tell me their Corvair stories (i.e., "I lost my virginity in a car just like that.") I've learned not to drive the Corvair when I am in a hurry. I bought it a year ago, and I'm writing a screenplay in which it plays a starring role. It's a chick flick, loosely based on my life, about three women, a dog, and a red Corvair.

    Many Canadians have no sense of humor. My ad was intended as a political statement. I've teetered on the brink of bankruptcy for years, and I'm tired of waiting for guaranteed, affordable health care. When I posted the ad, I added a footnote: "If I do marry a Canadian citizen, I expect the Canadian government to send George Bush, or whoever follows him into the Oval Office, a bill for the $300,000 annual cost of my cancer care." Many Canadians missed that part. I got e-mails accusing me of selfishness, attempted fraud, and worse. "Stay outta Canada!" read one. "My taxes are high enough as it is. Parasite!!"

    Some Canadians have a sense of humor. Selome, a 21-year-old black woman and student at the University of Toronto, e-mailed me a marriage proposal. "I'm offering my hand in marriage if it will help you receive treatment without having to declare bankruptcy," she wrote. "Same sex marriage is perfectly legal in Ontario so I'd be more than willing to help you out. ... I'm not even gay, actually." It was hard not to go ahead with this, just to get the talk-radio listeners in an uproar.

    Even when Canadians say "Keep out," they say it politely. Canadians deserve their reputation for politeness. Even the "Stay out of Canada" e-mails usually ended with good wishes. Some, including a pastor in Manitoba, wrote to say they would look for likely marriage candidates. Rutherford is considered Canada's answer to Rush Limbaugh, but neither he nor his callers harangued me on the air. Rush could take lessons.

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    Posted Tue, Mar 11, 12:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    About the Corvair: I'm surprised that Seattlites would look with favor upon the lowly Corvair, the car sacrificed on the alter of Ralph Nader's career. GM has been very timid about producing domestic small cars to this day.

    Now about health care. I don't think that in 21st century America, anyone should be reduced to destitution by medical bills. Neither should they be subject to confiscatory levels of taxation. There must certainly be a middle road. No one should lose their home due to illness, but it's not unreasonable to expect that they might need to forgo vacations or a new car until their expenses are paid. It's not a sick person's fault that they are ill, but neither is it the fault of their fellow citizens. I wish the author the best of luck. The US has the best health care in the world. We need to find a way to get the people who cannot afford it into the system, but scrapping the system wholesale and replacing it with one that has its own set of problems is not a rational answer. There needs to be an open debate on how to make a good system better and more inclusive, not how to ditch it for a different set of problems.

    Posted Tue, Mar 11, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    RE: About the Corvair: No, we should not be reduced to such financial crisis. Having gone through Melanoma, I am barely making month to month and I work full time. I'm 24, paying rent and student loans. I do not have insane amounts of debt because I've never lived outside my means. Now, however, I have crazy debt because of our medical system. It is ludicrous. It is not the best. We may have some excellent staff and doctors who work within our system, but that does not make this the best medical system in the world. I will literally be paying these bills off for 30 years. I went to a financial counselor (thanks to my workplace) and we figured I have approximately 60$ a month to live on. Gas, food, toiletries, etc. So, thanks to US health care system, I live off Top Ramen and cannot go anywhere except to work and home. I don't know the last time I could afford a gallon of milk. Is there assistance for someone like me? No, my annual income is too much. I qualify for NOTHING. And yet here I am barely able to scrape by without an end in sight. I would have been happy to give up a "vacation" but instead I work year round 365 days a year with my full time career as a teacher and during the holiday breaks (and summer) because I can't afford to do otherwise. Look to Spain. Look to Sweden. Free universal healthcare with minimal taxes. This must be fixed.


    Posted Tue, Mar 11, 4:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    If you don't like us - stay home: Take your red corvair and drive back to AmeriKKKa!

    Posted Tue, Mar 11, 10:10 p.m. Inappropriate

    Solution: What is the annual car insurance premium for the Corvair?? Is it paid by Bush43, Limbaugh, Rutherford, the taxpaying general public, or the author? Not until everyone individually pays out of pocket with after tax dollars for health insurance will the problem ever be solved. It is immoral for politicians and certain classes of employees to get a free ride from a sugar daddy who picks up their health insurance costs as a 'tax free fringe benefit' that actually is a giant drain on taxes. Animalal pays the monthly premium and so should you.


    Posted Wed, Mar 12, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

    RE: Solution: I was following animalal's logic until animalal came to the "giant drain on taxes" part. All health insurance premiums should be tax-exempt because the insurance saves the taxpayers the cost of paying for the care of those people. It also prevents the cost of caring for the uninsured from being passed on to other insured parties, the way free hospital care for indigents does. It's an incentive to do something that benefits all, as most tax incentives are intended to do.


    Posted Thu, Mar 13, 12:46 a.m. Inappropriate

    A Rational System Difficult To Build In The US: Imagine for a moment that you were given the opportunity to start with a completely blank slate and design a system for delivering health care to the population. In that instance, no rational person would ever believe that placing for-profit entities (insurance companies) between patients and their doctors was a good idea. Their profit motivation means that overall, they are only a drain of resources from the overall system, rather than a contributing entity. Unfortunately, they are well dug-in and will be almost impossible to dislodge.

    Anytime someone in the US mentions national health insurance, they are attacked vociferously. The only explanations I can fathom for the hostility are dogmatic belief in markets, or people shilling for the insurance industry. For believers in the power of free markets in this instance, please re-read any basic economics textbook. Look in the index for "market failures". There you will see the US health care dilemma described in remarkably simple terms.

    I lived for over five years in Japan, which has a national health care system. At one point, I entered that system for some significant treatment, including surgery. Based upon my experience, as well as some study over the years, I believe the Japanese system is highly effective and efficient. It differs from the US system in many ways, but the most basic difference is found in the fundamental motivating principle driving the system. Here, the basic motivation of all entities connected to health care except possibly the doctors themselves is to separate patients from as much money as possible while providing them with as little care as possible. In Japan, the system is motivated by a different goal: to provide a basic level of health care to all citizens of the nation.

    There are a few characteristics of that system that bear some closer examination, and deserve emulation here, assuming we are ever able to overthrow the oligarchy of insurance companies.
    1. Almost everyone is a member of the system, and pays for it through payroll taxes. These taxes are not extreme - on the order of 10-12% of income.
    2. Coverage is extensive, but limited to 70% of costs.
    3. Coverage for the remaining 30% is available through private insurance, and personal liability is capped on a monthly basis.
    4. Patients often receive extensive treatment, based upon the revolutionary idea of caring for them until they are actually well.

    I have personally experienced the grotesque difference in levels of care between the two systems. I had knee surgery in Japan and back surgery in the US. There, I was kept as an in-patient for a couple weeks while undergoing daily, intensive physical therapy under the close supervision of physicians, therapists and nurses. Here, I was rudely ejected from the hospital within a couple hours of waking up from anesthesia. Had I not been lucky enough to receive extensive personal care from my family, I would have been in a very bad situation. I am very aware that many Americans do not have that kind of
    family support available.

    When national health care is properly designed, funded and managed, it can be very successful. Pay no attention to those who defend the status quo in order to maintain their profits at the expense of the citizens of our country.

    Finally, the fact that the wealthiest nation in the history of the world refuses to provide basic health care to a significant portion of its population should be a source of shame and embarrassment for all Americans.

    Posted Thu, Mar 13, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

    RE: A Rational System Difficult To Build In The US: Like Waruihito, I have also recently had surgery, to reconstruct a foot that was subject to a minor birth defect. Move the heel, create a missing tendon, stuff like that. Aside from the inconvenience of recovery, I have no complaints. The surgery was performed at St. Joe's in Tacoma, the surgeon was one of the state's leading foot experts. My out of pocket, for a total of about $30,000, was about $1500, which the hospital was all to happy to bill me on monthly installments. I've never been mistreated by our health care system. Maybe because I'm an assertive, well-informed customer of health services, not a passive consumer. I have a bucketfull of issues with insurance companies. In a battle between insurance companies and government bureaucrats there are no heroes, just opportunists jockeying for gain. But I doubt if a person of my mindset would be accommodated by a socialized system. I know doctors who's quit rather than take marching orders from DC. Personally, I think health care is too important to leave to people who *aren't* making a profit, because those people's supposedly altruistic philosophy usually hides a darker agenda.


    Posted Fri, Apr 18, 10:06 a.m. Inappropriate

    RE: A Rational System Difficult To Build In The US: Sexual men's health Canadian Pharmacy buy levitra.

    Posted Mon, Apr 21, 9:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    RE: A Rational System Difficult To Build In The US: "I know doctors who's quit rather than take marching orders from DC."

    You're kidding, right? You'd rather have doctors taking marching orders from insurance companies??

    Posted Sat, May 21, 3:13 a.m. Inappropriate

    I was injured working as a registered nurse in the U.S. and if hadn't been for my aging mother, I truly do not believe I would be alive today. Our health care system, and work/comp. regulations, systematically tore away all of my savings and retirement funds. I lost my career (permanently disabled), my home, almost all of my possessions and most of my friends and contacts. I was rudely and repetitively accused of NOT being injured and 'working the system,' whatever that means, told I was a liar and denied basic care for many years. I didn't even get an x-ray for almost nine weeks. The physical therapy, biofeedback, mental health care (losing everything and being in chronic pain is depressing), many of the drugs, acupuncture and a dozen other attempts at trying to get well I had to pay for by myself. Even with an attorney, work/comp never repaid me. And through all this, I had no insurance AT ALL for the first nine years. My employee insurance "COBRA'd" out after 18 months, as if I could afford those ludicrous rates, and I did not get disability (Social Security Disability) for nine years. I 'could not' shop to buy food, nor do anything else such as laundry, drive, sit, stand or walk for more than 60 seconds, and didn't have the money for a place to live...hence moving in with my mother. She did everything for me. There were no home health aides, even after several surgeries, no physical therapists, no occupational therapists, no nothing. No drivers to all those doctor appointments and followup this and that. Everything was done by one person, my mother who is in her 80s. What does this say about the American health care system (I was injured in 1994 and just last month settled my work/comp case...yes, over 17 years) when a young, healthy, working full-time and overtime R.N. damn near dies because of an injury? When I was a child of 8, I wanted to move to Canada because they seemed like nicer, far less aggressive people. (That was during Vietnam.) I didn't know a thing about their health care system, or ours, at that time. I just wanted to be around people and in a country that didn't "aggress" as much as we do. Maybe I should have moved there when I graduated from college. I'll bet they wouldn't have let me 'damn near die,' extended family or not. People in the U.S. are out of luck, forced to be homeless...or die...when just one accident or illness occurs, unless they are fortunate enough to have someone take them in and help them. And god help them is they have dependent children. Fortunately, I didn't have any dependents. They would have been out in the street and/or literally starving, too. The Japanese system sounds sane. A lot of other countries' approach to health care sound sane. Why can't we emulate one of them?


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