OK.  The US probably isn’t ever going to adopt any other country’s health plan because we’re pretty convinced in America we know how to do things better than everyone else.  So…why bother?

Glad you asked...

“I have been treated to the best health care the world has to offer.
And that is right here in the United States of America.”
Rush Limbaugh.

Really?  There’s an awful lot of myth and propaganda out there when it comes to health care systems in other countries.  Long waiting lists!  Inferior quality!  No surgery for grandma!  And the ultimate burn... Socialized Medicine!!!

Here's the deal.  Politicians and pundits are always going to be screaming that “ObamaCare” (or whatever the new reform is 10 years down the road) is "socialized" or "just like the health care in England or Canada".  And therefore we should be afraid… very afraid.  They said that about Medicare and they’ll say it about every other health care reform in perpetuity throughout the universe.

At the other end of the political spectrum, advocates of a single-payer national health care plan sometimes paint a picture of a worry-free health care utopia . . . “if only we had a plan like Canada.” Some say that until we do have a system like Canada or England or France, no other reform is worthwhile.

I’ve read loads of statistics like the famous World Health Organization report ranking US health care at 37th in the world. But I want to hear it from regular folks who live in some of those 36 other countries.  So I started this completely unscientific blog to tell you some stories I’ve gathered by talking to people from other countries about their health care.  

I want to know just what’s up over there in England and Canada.  I know how it works at my house.  How does it work and not work at everybody else’s house?

And who am I anyway?

Here’s a bit about my checkered past – Up until my late thirties, I was an actress.  Once I moved to LA, I mainly worked on a bunch of commercials with a smattering of television and film.  One day I decided I wanted to do something more fulfilling than selling tacos and deodorant on TV.

It was the early 90s and I got interested in the issue of how to provide health care to the uninsured.  My first campaign as an organizer was a California ballot initiative in 1994 to create a statewide single payer health care system (like Canada!).  

Seventeen years and many campaigns later… I’m on the board of Health Access California, Universal Health Care Action Network, and Southern California Americans for Democratic Action.  I chair health care legislation committees at the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, as well as at Americans for Democratic Action. 

I am privileged to be married to a wonderful actor named Kurtwood Smith who supports my activist habit and takes me around the world on location (and vacation) with him. So when he got a job working in Canada this year, I decided it would be a perfect time to start a blog entitled Health Care: On Location!

Oh yeah, my name... Joan Pirkle Smith  



  1. What a great and important endeavor! I lived in Denmark and received free care there on several occasions in the 60s and 90s. I visited Cuba lots of times and saw how their preventative care measures positively impacted the country's health. And I've watched helplessly the decline of US health care, as new doctors proudly graduate from medical school as pharma-conscripts instead of healers. We can fight for Health Care for all, but what will we actually get? I try to stay away from hospitals and doctors, relying instead on acupuncture, Chinese herbs, supplements, oxygenation and exercise. Still, I have to have medical coverage just in case...accident, sudden onset, etc. It's awkward, to say the least, being sceptical of ones doctor. "No, I don't want that medicine. No, I don't want that injection..." Or, "Would you take this, or give it to your mother?"

  2. Health care reform is needed in the U.S., but I'm with Karen. As long as health care only covers what big pharma wants us to have, we'll continue to be at the mercy of doctors who treat symptoms, rather than healers who teach us how to live.

    Thanks for the blog, Joan!
    Cat Eby Robson

  3. Hey, Joan, what a great idea! I look forward to hearing more from you. Right now we're struggling to get health insurance for our 26-year-old. We had a young man that age from the Netherlands visit us a few years ago who just could not believe that in the USA so many people cannot get health coverage.

  4. Joan, this is a fantastic idea for a blog - having and comparing health care legislation and news. I had no idea that Vermont passed single payer health care legislation. Keep on fighting - this is a great cause and will ultimately benefit all of us here in the good ole US of A, rich or poor. Thanks for letting me know about this at the reunion!

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