Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sarah Palin sought healthcare in Canada?

The following is part of a thread on Facebook discussing this article:

Palin: While Growing Up, My Family Would Seek Health Care In Canada

The names involved might throw you off: "Shae" is the first commenter listed here, and the following comments are from the original poster. I didn't want to go in and clean up or edit anything. Hopefully my re-posting of this won't upset anyone involved (if it does, I'll remove it).

Nothing wrong with her statement - and nothing wrong her parents seeking out the best health care available. If you've ever been to Skagway you know that there is practically nothing there - no hospital and, back in the 60's maybe no real doctor. This is a complete non-story, manufactured by people who are obsessed with Palin.

Meanwhile, here's a story of someone facing bankruptcy owing to medical costs. The twist is he's Canadian. From the Toronto Sun:

"Suffering from brain cancer, Kent Pankow was literally forced to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. for lifesaving surgery--at a cost to family and friends of $106,000--after the health-care system in Alberta left him hanging in bureaucratic limbo for 16 crucial days, his tumour meanwhile migrating to an unreachable part of the brain, while it dithered over his case file, ultimately deciding he was not surgery worthy.

Now, with the Mayo Clinic having done what the Alberta Cancer Board wouldn't authorize or even explain, but with the tumour unable to be totally removed, the province will now not fund the expensive drug, Avastin, that the Mayo prescribed to keep him alive and keep the remaining tumour from increasing in size--despite the costs of the drug being totally funded by the province for other forms of cancer.

Kent Pankow, as it turns out, has the right disease but he has it in the wrong place.

Had he lung cancer, breast cancer, or colon cancer, then the cost of the drug--$4,555 per treatment, two times a month--would be totally covered by Alberta's version of OHIP [Ontario Health Insurance Plan].

But he doesn't.

And so he is not only a victim of brain cancer, he is also a victim of arbitrary discrimination."

The good news is that President Obama remains committed to bringing U.S. health care into line with Canadian standards. If he succeeds, sick Canadians will eventually be set free from the ruinous temptations of places like the Mayo Clinic.

I am sorry Mr. Pankow is so ill. My mother died of breast cancer that moved into her brain. It is an awful illness, an awful death. But the focus of this thread is Palin and universal health care, not an exceptional case cut and pasted from a news story.

As for Palin, I do not blame her parents for getting care for their children where they could; the point is what Sarah Palin is saying now and how she is trying to obfuscate the health care debate.

Former governor Palin is trying to affect public policy and become president.

She has raised the specter of death panels, eugenics, the mercy killing of her son, rationing, socialized medicine and communism. She is red-baiting and Hitler-baiting, not talking about policy.

She continues to mess with the truth, rearrange history, and reduce serious intellectual debate to populist twaddle.

She is a major public figure who plays fast and loose with the truth and like it or not, when she shoots her mouth off it is news.

Fasten your seat belts. Shae and I talked about the Palin comment via email yesterday and he has brought it to Facebook. Here is what I wrote him. It may be more than you need to know about the history of universal health care in Canada and Sarah Palin's contradictions, but you might find it helpful:

Shae, you are right to point out that the Palins lived in Skagway from the time Sarah was 3 months old until she was 6 or so, when they moved to Eagle River and eventually Wasilla. This means that the family lived in Skagway from 1964 to about 1970.

And yes, Skagway is remote--about a 100 miles from Whitehorse, about a 100 miles from Juneau--the two closest "big" towns. The Juneau trip requires a ferry ride, probably pretty time consuming and iffy, depending on the ferry schedule. The drive up to Whitehorse was probably not easy either and probably pretty much impassable a lot of the winter.

And if my kid burned himself, I'd try to get him to the nearest nurse, doctor, clinic or hospital. Can't blame 'em there.

But let's look at the history of health care in Canada. Canada is a big, spread out country. A lack of doctors and uneven access to care had long been a problem, so in the late 1940s and early 1950s provincial governments began to take matters into their own hands, subsidizing doctors, clinics and hospitals in remote areas. Tommy Douglas, the Premier (similar to governor) of Saskatchewan at the time, was the leader in this effort. Douglas was a prairie populist, indeed a social democrat, who helped found the New Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP is not unlike the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party that my grandmother helped organize and that gave us Hubert Humphrey, Orville Freeman, Walter Mondale, Paul Wellstone and now, Al Franken, politicians that horrify Shae. But I digress. Under Douglas's leadership Saskatchewan in 1946 passed the Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act, guaranteeing hospital care to most citizens. Alberta followed suit in 1950. The plans were popular and the rest of the country wanted in. The Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act was passed in 1957 to extend something similar to the whole country. Under this act the federal government would fund 50% of the cost of health services to any province as long as the province agreed to five conditions: public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility. It's not socialized medicine (they have that in Great Britain, but not Canada) but it's definitely a federally subsidized plan to provide universal health care. In July of 1960, the Yukon signed onto this plan, helping fund health care in Whitehorse.

And the Palins apparently benefited from that health care in the late 1960s.

Or did they?

The Anchorage Daily News is now reporting that Palin told a different version of the story about her brother's burned foot a while back to the Skagway paper, the Skagway News. That time around she said they took the ferry to Juneau.

So, who knows what's really going on, but it sounds to me like the former governor either benefited from the Canadian system or told yet another fib.

Or both.

I do know for sure that Canadians like Tommy Douglas. Ya, you betcha they like that Tommy. They voted him Greatest Canadian of All Time in a poll organized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2004:


Here are the links to the Alaskan papers:



Here's a Canadian government time line that outlines the history of its health care system:



  1. regarding Palin, she should have stayed in Canada - so that the rest of us can stop threatening to move there!

    Video Link: The Last Straw


  2. Anonymous8:20 PM

    When I was growing up in Canada – 1960 to 2000, there was no such thing as medical bankruptcy; ask any Canadian and they will look at you like you are crazy, but yes I too had just had to declare medical bankruptcy for my husband who suffered a stroke in 2000.

    The Canadian medical system is NOT the problem. Canada had a great medical system to be proud of, but the health industry that profited from this system became greedy and they exploited the medical system, so that today the Government of Canada can no longer afford to pay for universal healthcare. The government is being blackmailed - if you don’t pay up and feed the medical monster, then the medical monster will in turn tell the voters just how terrible the government is for not taking care of their sick and infirm.

    Keep in mind there are 10 Americans to every 1 Canadian, so our Canadian tax dollar will not go as far as the American dollar. In addition, Canada now has the tax burden of a massive tsunami of aging baby boomers wanting their pensions, medicine and now long term care. Well, unless Canadians are crapping loonies, then every Canadian will for the next fifty years have to make better health care choices.