Planting the flag of universality

Planting the flag of universality

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So the health care bill finally, finally got passed last night, more or less concluding the long national nightmare that has consumed American politics for the duration of the previous year. Health insurance will now be mandatory for all citizens, all large employers will be forced to provide coverage to their workers, and federal and state Medicad programs for the poor will be expanded. Along with the ban on denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, these reforms are expected to bring millions of previously uninsured Americans under some form of coverage, allowing them to join the ranks of the vast majority of Americans who already enjoy health care coverage through their jobs. Here’s a good summary from the New York Times explaining more of the precise details of the passed legislation.

My first thoughts, naturally, were “what does this mean for Canada?”

In recent decades, Canadians have defined themselves (which is to say, contrasted themselves favorably with the United States) by celebrating their universal health care coverage. We also tend to make an enormous show of pitying those Americans who lack coverage (which many Canadians assume is just about everyone in the States).

But now that Americans are poised to embrace a health care system that is very identifiably “universal,” the Canadian national psyche is plunged into a bit of a dilemma. How can we maintain our vernier of distinctness if one of our favorite distinctness talking-points is robbed away?

My prediction: Canadian nationalists will now have to nitpick endlessly about why the American system is not truly universal by Canadian standards (the only standards that count, obviously). More charitable Canadians will probably patronizingly applaud the Obama reforms as a good “first step” towards our utopian fully-state controlled system. No one will view the new US system as something the Canadian system will probably itself descend into in the near future, though that’s probably the most likely outcome of all.

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