United States Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a keynote address at the University of Toronto discussing the importance of universal healthcare and how American congress can learn from Canada’s healthcare system.
Sanders has been a vocal supporter of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and reforming America’s healthcare system to cover more American citizens.
Sanders’ visit to the university comes as part of a larger visit to Canada to learn more about the intricacies of the Canadian healthcare system.
Held at the Convocation Hall on Sunday, Sanders stated that while Canada’s healthcare system is not perfect, countries should be looking for ways to improve their systems.
“No country in the world has all of the answers and never will as technology changes, as needs change. And sensible policies, as the president of this university made the point, we look all over the world and we ask the hard questions; is it working better there? What can we do to make our system better?”
According to Sanders, over 28 million Americans currently have no health insurance, with many more Americans being underinsured and unable to pay high deductibles.
He also highlighted the work of Tommy Douglas, the Premier of Saskatchewan in 1944, as his plan for a new Medicare system in his province became the model for Canada’s current healthcare plan.
Sanders went on to discuss how having billionaires in high political office creates a disparity between the government and the needs of the people. “Real change, it never happens from the top on down,” he said. “Real change always happens, from the bottom on up.”
The U.S. Senator criticized America’s current political situation, as wealthy political groups aim to influence elections by giving large sums of money to extreme-right wing candidates who further promote the needs of the rich, specifically citing the Koch brothers, a wealthy business family known for their strong political ties .
“They are spending enormous amounts of money. They have taken the Republican party from what used to be what we call a center-right party to a right-wing extremist party,” he stated.
Sanders noted that this trend of wealthy politicians condenscing power is occurring across the world and referred to it as an “oligarchy”.
He also cited the recent attempts by the Republican party to dismantle the Affordable Care Act as an effort to regress America to a time “where freedom was based on the amount of money you had in your bank account.”
According to Sanders, wealthy families and groups like the Koch brothers are seeking to privatize social security and public health in order to give more tax breaks to the top one per cent. “That is what happens when billionaires are able to buy a political party. Do not let that happen in Canada,” he said.
Sanders went on to emphasise that the definition of healthcare needs to be expanded to include dental care, eye care, and psychological needs. He concluded by speaking against pharmaceutical companies both in America, as well as Canada who take advantage of over-charging for prescription drugs.
A brief Q&A was held after Sanders’ keynote address with Dr. Daniella Martin, the vice-president of Women’s College Hospital.
Martin posed questions to Sanders about how to disprove perpetuated myths about the Canadian health care system.
Sanders stated that partly why the idea of universal healthcare is criticized is because people feel that doctors would become “slaves” to the needs of patients and the notion of universal care is too radical.
“There is so much to be learned and we will take back what we learned here and what we know about the Canadian healthcare system to the Unites States Congress and to the American people,” Sanders stated. “We in the United States are about to ask a simple question: How does it happen that here in Canada you provide healthcare to every man, women, and child, and you do it in fifty percent of the cost that we spend on health care in the Unites States? And the answer is to a significant degree that we have a health care system not designed to provide quality care to all people in a cost-effective way, but frankly, a system designed to make billions in profit for the drug companies and the insurance companies.”
Bernie Sanders gained global notoriety when he ran against former U.S secretary of state Hillary Clinton for the leader of the Democratic Party in the 2016 U.S presidential elections.