Canadian Shona Holmes joins the great American healthcare debate
"You got a lotta nerve
"To say you got a helping hand to lend
"You just want to be on
"The side that's winning"
—Bob Dylan, "Positively 4th Street"
By now you've all probably heard of Shona Holmes, the Canadian woman featured in those television ads that have been running all over American TV in recent weeks, the ones slamming Canada's healthcare system as some sort of nightmarish system from hell.
Well, the truth is now out and the fact is Shona Holmes never actually had a life-threatening brain tumor, as she's been claiming in those ads and interviews on American TV. Instead, according to the Mayo Clinic where she was treated, her "brain tumor" was actually a Rathke's Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland and "Rathke's Cleft Cysts are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts."
The real story, it seems, is that she was on a waiting list for treatment here in Canada for her non-life-threatening benign cyst, but didn't want to wait and therefore went to the States and paid for her own treatment instead. This is quite a different story from the one presented in those ads: a story about how the Canadian system was going to just let her die because it's such a flawed, awful, dangerous system.
All this is from a great article by Julie Mason that appeared earlier this week in the Ottawa Citizen.
Sadly, CBC's main news program, The National, covered this story last week, but somehow failed to mention (or perhaps failed to research enough to find out?) that Shona Holmes never actually had any life-threatening brain tumor—obviously the most important part of her story.
A Right-Wing Ad Campaign
Watch the ad here and listen as Holmes states that "I survived a brain tumor, but if I relied on my government for healthcare I'd be dead". This is simply not true. And Holmes, it should be noted, is not just some naive flake being used by a right-wing group to help spread their anti-healthcare reform message. She's actually an activist herself, one who has been all over the American media airwaves giving interviews about Canada's healthcare system.
Now there's no doubt that the wait times in this country can be unacceptable (and, since her cyst was starting to cause vision problems, Holmes definitely should not have had to wait months to see a specialist). However, the simple truth is that if a person has a life-threatening tumor in Canada they will be treated and not, as Holmes states, left to die.
Why she'd want to see nearly 50 million Americans left completely uninsured simply because she was unhappy with her treatment in Canada is beyond me.
Tellingly, if you listen to her talk she doesn't really seem to have much—or any—concern for the uninsured. Being wealthy enough to travel down to the Mayo Clinic for $97,000 private treatment, she seems to only be concerned with people like herself, those with money—the uninsured 50 million be damned.
Holmes' stated aim in appearing in these ads and interviews is to persuade Americans to stick with their current system and reject Obama's plan to cover everyone (a mighty flawed, non-single-payer system, I might add, but at least a noble attempt to finally cover everyone with some form of insurance).
This current system that Holmes so passionately wants America to retain is of course the very same horrifically unjust one—the only one in the industrialized world that doesn't cover all of its citizens—that the majority of Americans have wanted replaced for years.
Does Shona Holmes really think that millions of American children are better off with no medical insurance than with a system like that in Canada, no matter how much she may find it lacking?
Is she really that insensitive? Stupid? Self-absorbed?
Or does she, perhaps just like being on TV a lot?
Whatever the case, she sure comes across as a villain in all of this. A petty villain perhaps, but a villain nonetheless. Not so much to Canada and the Canadian healthcare system she's so intent on smearing with her less-than-honest tale of woe, but more so to the American public who she's hoping to condemn to the appalling status quo they presently call a healthcare system—and what the rest of the world calls a joke.
Yes, yes, of course if you're wealthy and/or you're lucky enough to have an insurance policy that actually covers you when you most need it (rather than challenges your claim and/or denies you certain treatments) then you will undoubtedly get some good care. But, seriously, who wants to live in a system in which losing your job also means losing your healthcare, as so many Americans have been finding out over the past year? Nearly 50 million citizens go without any coverage whatsoever and tens of millions more have inadequate, partial and/or tentative coverage at best. You call that a modern and just society?
"The Best System In The World"
Americans always want to believe they are the best at everything in the world and when it comes to certain things perhaps they are, but when it comes to their healthcare system the fact is they're the laughing stock of the world.
The rest of the industrialized world long, long ago accepted the basic truth that any modern, just and civilized society unequivocally must provide two fundamental things to all of its citizens: universal primary and secondary education and universal healthcare. Yet some 60 years onward America is still attempting to claw its way into the 1950s. That is, 60 years after everyone else America is still attempting to give all of its citizens these two most basic and fundamental of human rights.
And if people like Shona Holmes have their wish they never will.
For another excellent article on healthcare reform in America try this quite personal recent piece by Ted Kennedy, "The Cause of My Life".
Then there's this excellent piece by Roger J. Newell, an American who spent years living under both the "socialized" British and "free market" American systems and his take on both: "American health care: the view from expatriate who came home".
Finally, check out this piece by David Sirota about how the wealthy in America (including certain Democrats who Sirota calls "Land Rover Liberals") are doing all they can to defeat universal healthcare, at least as long as it involves them having to pay even a few thousand dollars more in taxes each year from their hoard of millions and/or billions.
Let's just hope America ignores the scaremongering of the likes of Shona Holmes and the greed and selfishness of so many of its own ultra-wealthy and decides to finally join the ranks of truly civilized nations.
Mike Cowie is a freelance writer who writes about politics, music, film, travel and much more. You can read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.