I have pretty strong recollections of arriving in these parts in March of 1968 and feeling that BC was a couple or three decades behind my former California digs, behind in crime, behind in grime, behind in overconsumption and bluster. OK, no more Fillmore/Avalon Ballroom/Straight Theater dance-concerts and no more free wheeling social life in the way it was practiced in marvellous Marin and in the Marina district. I also recall that, not long after, I thought it might be an idea to actually walk the five miles to school one lovely morning, and that said walk took longer than it might otherwise have because Saltspringers at the time didn’t see that walking was a viable mode of transportation and would pull over to offer a ride (“Hey, aren’t you one of the new kids? Lemme give you a lift…”), and where there were several versions of shaking heads that a teen would actually walk rather than get a ride right to the front door of the school. The community ran the gamut from the hip and out there to the real estate developing movers and shakers, but there did seem to be a very sense of community and a willingness to help others where the need arose. Saltspring Island, along with most of the East Coast of Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the Salish Sea generally have gone the way of Marvellous Marin, becoming a mecca for money from elsewhere, a locus of gentrification, and, in a way, a mirror of a society that has seriously lost its way. In the same way, our Canadian society has caught up with much of the mean-spirited social Darwinism of our friends to the South, and much of this is reflected in the state of our cherished community institutions, health care being a prime example.
A recent look at some time-shifted television from Detroit gave rise to some reflection on what health care will look like in a short time if we continue along our current path to reinserting greed into the equation. Every break for ads contained at least one, and often several, spots for health-related items. Some of these were prescription medications (“Talk to your doctor about adding Rigormortis.”) but many were for actual hospitals and their associated health management companies. I don’t even want to know what it costs to advertise on network television, even in a depressed market like Detroit, but it must be substantial, and some of the outfits aren’t even located in Detroit–In one instance, it is suggested that you make the trek to Chicago to treat your cancer. In one half-hour, there must have been at least a dozen of these slick presentations. It’s plain that a good portion of the health dollars spent in the U.S. (read private medical care systems) goes to promotion. There is also all the paper shuffling, apparently a much steeper cost in the U.S. than in more social jurisdictions, and, finally, beyond the salaries for highly trained professionals, there is the cost of hiring the best and brightest administrators of corporate health management organizations and a dime or two for shareholders. The Affordable Health Care Act is but a timid step is a vague approximation of the right direction, and, oh! my, what a fuss it has caused among the fans of Tea and the Fraser Institute, excuse me, Heritage Institute zombies loose on the streets of Laredo. And here in the land of Canuckistan, where socialism runs rampant, there are signs that we’re headed very much the way of the good ole boys who shoot ducks. That same Fraser Institute published a report yesterday bemoaning the increase in the interval between diagnosis by a generalist and treatment by a specialist, noting that said interval had pretty much doubled since 1993, and that Canadians should get accustomed to a more innovative system (code for a privatized, for-profit system). Ironic that they should cite 1993 as a baseline. Oh, yeah, it’s a nice, round 20 years, but it also marks the coming to office of one Paul Martin as finance minister, whose desire to slay the deficit outweighed such promises as scrapping NAFTA, reversing the GST and killing the helicopter contract. Martin did in the deficit, but mostly at the cost of services to the general citizenry, returning less money to provinces for health and education, for housing and social programs, a canon right out of the FI playbook. And now, behold, we have a proliferation of advertising on Canadian media about insurance to cover items not paid for by general health care, where Blue Cross will, for a monthly premium, pick at least part of the tab for any comely young woman who happens to get bitten in the butt by some stuffed toy in unlikely circumstances. It gives me this sinking feeling that we are looking at another of those altered baselines, where we get Mike Duffy’s and Pamela Wallin’s expenses, expensive military hardware of dubious usefulness, a surveillance state only slightly less imposing than the NSofA, but poverty and illness on reserves and in city cores, closed public hospitals, schools of increasing irrelevance, and a parliamentary system that is crumbling under Con attack.
If you don’t see this blossoming right before your eyes, save up some coin and see your nearest political ophthalmologist.
This little video is pretty enlightening: