Americans believe ad criticizing health care: poll
Published Wednesday, August 5, 2009 7:24PM EDT
It seems that Americans and Canadians have reacted quite differently to those controversial TV ads featuring Shona Holmes criticizing Canada's health care system, a new poll finds.
The Angus Reid Strategies poll surveyed opinions on both sides of the border to the ad in which the Ontario resident states that if she had relied on her government for health care when she developed a brain cyst, she'd have died.
Holmes, of Waterdown, Ont., had a growth near her pituitary gland treated at the Mayo Clinic in the States, after doctors in Canada told her she would have to wait several months to see a specialist. She re-mortgaged her home and paid about $100,000 for treatment.
In the ad, Holmes tells viewers she "survived a brain tumour, but if I'd relied on my government for health care, I'd be dead." The ad is sponsored by Patients United Now, a U.S. citizens' group that opposes government-run health care.
The Angus Reid poll, conducted last week, found that three in five Canadians (58 per cent) described the ad as "deceiving," 32 per cent called it "unfair" and 32 per cent called it "offensive."
In the United States, meanwhile, 68 per cent of respondents called the ad "informative," 44 per cent said it was "honest" and 35 per cent believed it was "true."
While respondents in both Canada and the U.S. agreed that health care can be delayed in Canada (77 per cent in Canada; 68 per cent in the U.S.), almost half of Americans agreed with the ad's assertion that health care can be "denied" in Canada. In contrast, only 21 per cent of Canadians agreed.
And while only seven per cent of Canadians agreed with the ad's statement that "The Canadian government says patients aren't worth it," more than a quarter of Americans (27 per cent) said they thought that statement was true.
The poll surveyed 1,010 randomly selected Canadians and 1,005 Americans using an online questionnaire. Jaideep Mukerji of Angus Reid says the online format worked well for this survey since it allowed respondents to view the entire clip of the Holmes ad online before they offered their responses.
He says the poll elicited a number of interesting findings. For example, it found that two-thirds of Canadians have a "very" or "moderately positive" impression of their own health system. About 43 per cent of Americans also have a positive view of Canada's system.
In contrast, a full 65 per cent of Americans have a "moderately" or "very negative" view of the American system. Canadians agree; a full 79 per cent of respondents on this side of the border had a negative impression of American-style health care.
"With Americans, it's not that they hate the Canadian health care system, but they have very specific concerns about wait times and the larger implications -- unfair in some cases - in terms of Canadians being denied health care and that patients here 'just aren't worth it,'" Mukerji told Canada AM Wednesday.
"It's worth pointing out there's a very strong political divide in the U.S. when it comes to health care. Republicans are far more likely to have a negative view of the Canadian system. And it's interesting, because in Canada, you don't see that political divide," he noted.
Yet although Americans have a negative view of their system, respondents there said they would prefer their own system in most instances, on such matters as getting a diagnosis, getting a hospital bed and access to a specialist.
By the same token, Canadians said they preferred their system for most health care needs. The one exception was if they needed access to surgery as soon as possible. A little less that a third of Canadians said the Canadian system would be more effective in this regard, compared to 41 per cent who said the U.S. system would be preferable.
Another 14 per cent said both systems would be effective at providing surgery quickly, while 12 per cent said they weren't sure.