There's a tumblr blog I go to quite frequently called We Are the 99 Percent which is simply photographs of people holding a sign that describes why they feel they are part of the Occupy movement's 99 percent. I have a hard time figuring out why I find this so compelling. The site has hundreds of these pictures of people who are in debt, un- or underemployed, insecure about food and housing, and often sick or disabled. So many of these accounts are of folks who are carrying debt from student loans, underwater homes or medical bills. This debt renders them indentured servants, but with no guarantee of employment.
Quite honestly, I can't really relate to most of these people. By far, most of them are American, and as much as Americans and Canadians may be indistinguishable to the rest of the world, there are some major differences that are particularly relevant here. The real estate bubble hasn't burst here, and in many parts of the country there is no real estate bubble. Most Canadians are not underwater on their mortgages and there hasn't been any spate of foreclosures. Most universities here are publicly funded and tuition fees average about $5000 a year for undergraduate programs. The biggest difference, though, is our publicly funded health insurance. Every Canadian has a provincial health card that provides all basic health services for free. Ok, it's not free. We pay for it through a reasonably progressive taxation system. Poor people pay less than rich people, but everyone receives the same care. Every emergency room visit, every hospital stay, every doctor's appointment (specialists too), diagnostic tests, surgery, childbirth - all free. No worries about pre-existing conditions, co-pays, HMOs (whatever they are), unaffordable premiums or bankruptcy due to medical bills. Oh, we complain about wait times. Sometimes people have to wait longer than they'd like for MRIs and elective surgeries. And for people under 65, drugs aren't covered unless you have supplemental insurance, usually from your employer. But, a catastrophic illness isn't automatically a financial catastrophe.
I don't know why Americans are so vehemently opposed to the kind of reasonably civilized health care enjoyed by most citizens of the developed world. From my outside perspective it seems that a significant number of people are being condemned to suffer for an obviously failed ideology.