Yesterday, global online advocacy network Avaaz.org attempted to inject a dose of reality into the heated debate over health care reform by launching an interactive database of user-submitted health care stories from Canada, the UK, and other countries with national health care systems. In a marked departure from the outrage, truth-distortion and detraction at recent town hall debates, contributors to the Avaaz message board have sounded surprisingly levelheaded.
"The health care system in Canada isn't perfect - but it is pretty darn good," a contributor named Gwen wrote on the Avaaz.org board. "I have never had to wait more than a week to see my doctor, when I see a specialist I don't have to worry about paying out of pocket, and as a woman I have access to free yearly pap tests and mammograms."
Gwen's matter of fact tone highlights the extent to which the discussion around health care reform in America has degenerated into sensationalism. Opponents of a public option are quick to raise the specter of long waits to see a doctor and a general degraded quality of care. Much like the recent discussion of 'death panels,' detractors are accustomed to distorting the truth. The lack of an honest conversation about national health care was not lost on contributors to Avaaz.org, including Dr. Frank Tester:
The debate over health care in the United States is particularly disturbing because it has become a media war where facts are distorted and opponents of what is being proposed appear willing to stop at nothing in order to accomplish their objective of stopping President Obama's initiative.
Of the nearly five thousand comments made on the site in the last 24 hours, the vast majority express one of two things: gratitude towards their government for relieving the fear that comes with not having medical coverage, and dismay at the dishonest debate in the US. Criticism of national health care is all but missing.