Bernie Sanders got a welcome boost when launching his legislative bid for a single-payer healthcare program in the United States yesterday — the endorsement of a prominent Canadian doctor.
So when Dr. Danielle Martin, a physician at a Toronto-area hospital and professor at the University of Toronto, appeared at the Vermont senator’s legislative bid flashing her green Ontario healthcare card, she was showing those gathered what government-funded healthcare could look like if passed in the U.S.
“I just handed over this card, my Canadian health care card to my doctor, and that was it,” she says. “I wish that all of my American neighbours could experience the same simplicity in their moments of need.”
“In public polls, 94 per cent of Canadians say that our health-care system is a source of personal and collective pride–even more than ice hockey,” says Martin, eliciting laughs from the audience, according to CTV News.
Her public support for the program is useful in showing Americans that the current system of high premiums and high deductibles is an anomaly in the healthcare systems of the world’s advanced industrialized nations. The rest all have national healthcare programs that don’t rely on private insurance to the degree the U.S. does. “When my patients are sick, I do not need to ask if they have insurance or if they can afford to pay for my services,” she tells the crowd gathered.
Her face is probably more familiar to American news watchers than Canadians, but Martin is a physician at the Women’s College Hospital and associate professor at the University of Toronto who became known after a widely shared video showing her defending Canadian healthcare against a series of claims made by a Republican senator on the efficiency of the system back.
During a U.S. Senate hearing in 2014, Martin argued against and clarified a number of claims made by North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr that gave the appearance that publicly-funded Canadian healthcare system wasn’t living up to its promises. From increased wait times to doctors leaving for the private sector to the seeming advantages of paying more for healthcare, Martin countered each of the senator’s claims to highlight the advantages of the Canadian system.The two health programs that are government-administered, Medicare and Medicaid, aren’t available to a majority of Americans. Both programs are popular with their recipients, with Medicaid being used by nearly 70 million Americans who can’t afford insurance bought off exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act. Medicare is government-provided for Americans over the age of 65 and younger patients with disability status and offers a similarly subsidized treatment and prescription drugs and covers over 50 million. Sanders’ legislation would expand the program to all Americans and finally provide health coverage to 28 million Americans who still don’t have any insurance.
Sanders’ Medicare for All bill, which would be rolled out over four years, has quickly earned the support of at least 15 Democratic senators, including Kamala Harris of California, Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker of New Jersey, all of whom are considering running for the party’s 2020 ticket.
But it is unlikely to pass a Republican controlled Congress, despite more than half of Americans saying that the government should be responsible for providing its citizens with affordable healthcare. But bringing it to a vote would force Republican politicians to put their opposition to a vote, one which is guaranteed to alienate an increasingly larger percentage of American public.
“My generation of Canadians does not remember what it was like to worry about paying a doctor or a hospital bill,” says Martin. And perhaps one day, a generation of Americans won’t remember or worry either.