What I was taught about universal healthcare

I just today read Melissa’s post, How I Lost My Fear of Universal Healthcare. Prior to last February, Melissa spent several years living in Canada after growing up in the United States, and she explains how she waded through the misinformation she was taught growing up to eventually embrace the idea of universal healthcare.

Like Melissa, I was taught growing up that the Canadian healthcare system is horrible. I was taught that any Canadian with money comes here to the U.S. for healthcare because it’s so hard to get in Canada, with huge waiting lines and a lack of choice. In contrast to the nightmare in Canada, I was taught that the U.S. has the best healthcare system in the world.

And then, in college, I met a Canadian. You know what he told me? He said that when he finished grad school he was moving back to Canada, even though he really would like to stay in the U.S. Why is he moving back? Because, he told me, there was no way he wanted to start a family here, what with our healthcare system the way it is. The idea that he or his could be one accident away from destitution terrified him. He told me how much he loved Canada’s healthcare system, how well it had worked for him, and how secure it made him feel.

I walked away from that conversation incredibly confused. Since then I’ve met several more Canadians, and all of them echo the same thing: the U.S.’s healthcare system is terrifying, Canada’s system is great. Sure, like anything it has its quirks, but overall? I’ve never met a Canadian who didn’t love it.

And now I’m left to wonder how I was so brazenly lied to growing up.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • smrnda

    What I find strange is that about every single industrialized nation has some form of universal health care, but opponents look at the Canadian (or British) single-payer systems as if that was the only universal health care systems anywhere.

    What I don’t understand is this – conservatives will trot out a handful of Canadians who will express frustration with the system as proof that it doesn’t work, yet millions of Americans who have no health coverage here don’t count as an indictment of the US health care system. I read a horror story about someone in the UK who died of a rare disease because the NHS wouldn’t foot the bill for some test (it could have been totally anecdotal/apocryphal) but somehow, if the free market does that to you in the States it’s not a problem.

    I did meet one kid in college who had been born in Canada who said that the Canadian health care system ‘sucked’ and that in the States he got the treatment he needed, but he once quoted 60,000 dollars a year as the income for the average American, so I didn’t take his opinions too seriously. Plus, people should get over the idea of “if it’s great for me it’s great for everyone and if it’s bad for me it’s bad for everyone’ mentality and look at some facts and figures.

    • ScottInOH

      What I don’t understand is this – conservatives will trot out a handful of Canadians who will express frustration with the system as proof that it doesn’t work, yet millions of Americans who have no health coverage here don’t count as an indictment of the US health care system.

      You’re on to something here: conservatives who are resisting universal healthcare are absolutely not speaking to the uninsured; they are trying to make people who have health insurance believe that their care will be worse under a universal system. They’re arguing that you, the hard-working person that you are, will have to lose coverage so that someone else can gain it.

  • ArachneS

    This is the line that is always trotted out to me when I am told about Canadians health care.

    1. There are such long waits, Canadian people travel to America so they can get the care they need right away.

    2. The doctors aren’t paid enough so there are not enough doctors.

    3. You pay way too high of taxes over there so that everyone to have health care.

    Which is funny, because all of those are either misleading, or not relative to the average person looking at health care. Because:

    1. The way it works is that the people who need health care more urgently, get the soonest appointments. Makes sense right? You want someone to get health care quickly if their need is more imminent. However, if your need is not urgent, nor imminently dangerous, you will wait. Your money will not make you a more valuable patient.

    Many Americans will wait on treatment that they cannot afford, even if it is urgent. This is because our system rewards the Wealthy with healthcare whenever they want it, and leaves the rest of the population to get by as best they can without it.

    What seems more fair? Ours or theirs?

    Now the people who are crossing borders to get our health care? Those are not average people like me who would have to wait here or get it and go bankrupt. They come over our border to get healthcare because they have the money and they want to cut in line- since they can’t where they live.

    2. There are actually a proportionate number of doctors for the population in Canada, but since its such a big continent, there are areas that are too rural to have many options for medical care. Its similar to the rural areas in the US that have very few options around.

    3. If you look at the numbers spent on healthcare for a family here in the US, vs the taxes paid by families in Canada, you’ll find its comparable, or even cheaper, when you count in deductibles and copays that people spend thousands on.

    Like you I was raised with this idea that canadians health care was awful, and only realized what it was actually like when my sister-in-law married a Canadian and moved over there.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Yeah, the argument that Canadians come to the US to escape the waits drives me nuts. ZOMG, you mean to tell me that rich people fly around wherever they want whenever they want to get exactly what they want when they want it? Really? Really? *faints from shock*

    • Dianne

      I remember reading somewhere (will try to dig it up if you’re interested) that when Sarah Palin was growing up her family used to go to British Columbia for health care. I certainly have patients who duck over the border for meds and things. Haven’t actually seen any Canadians coming the opposite direction, despite 15 years of working in medicine in the northeast. Take that for what you will.

  • math_geek

    I’m a tentative supporter of “universal” health care, and a reluctant supporter of Obamacare overall, but the general sense among my profession is that the Canadian health insurance system is pretty subpar. You don’t have to compare it to the US system to reach that conclusion. I think that many European countries do a much better job. Canada controls health care costs through wait-time rationing, which means that it often takes over a year to get something as simple as a hip replacement. That just seems cruel.

    As the notes from this talk below suggests (I’m a young health actuary and I really believe in actuarial science as a tool to understand health care), the American system has a lot of advantages compared to the Canadian system, including use of high tech medical procedures, per patient doctor time, cancer survival rates.

    People seem conditioned to believe their nation’s health care system is the best, and you could make a case for many of them, but it’s hard to describe what the ideal goals for a health care system are without having a serious discussion about what we want that system to accomplish, and I don’t think we are prepared to do that.


    • smrnda

      As a person who studied mathematics and statistics I’m not going to comment on the link since I haven’t had enough time to read it thoroughly, but you make a good point that the Canadian system isn’t the only national health care system out there. Something about the American system is that if you have $$ it’s a great system, otherwise, you are more or less screwed.

      An example – I have pretty good insurance and a mess of health problems, but it’s okay since I’m only spending (premiums plus expenditures) about 200 a month on health care; if I had shittier insurance, I wouldn’t be able to afford anything, and I’d have to let every single health problem go untreated. Then I’d be unable to work, and what after that? I’m fortunate to have known people less fortunate than me who, because of cost issues, couldn’t afford to treat actual medical emergencies when they came up, and it’s given me some perspective on what’s wrong with the US system.

      Insurance should be about distributing the cost of expensive things over a large group of people, but you can make more profit by shoving more costs onto the people paying premiums.

      • math_geek

        I’m with you on the concern for how many working class and poor people struggle to preserve their health in our health care system.

        I’m just trying to make the point that there are some actually good traits about the American health care system and that an honest assessment of how to improve American health care should incorporate what is actually good about our system.

        I also hate that Canada is the “holy grail” health care system of many liberals. In my opinion, it’s weaker than the French, German, Japanese, and possibly even British systems.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        I would like to see how Japan is better, really. For all I know it fares pretty bad compared to most universal health care models. The way emergencies are managed by small hospitals is awful and they are a bit behind in medical procedures and drug advancements compared to Europe. They have many of the bad things of the US system too (the rich get good treatment, the poor may not get treatment at all but also there’s barely no OBs because they are scared of being sued). It simply has more holes than a swiss cheese. It’s true than it’s better than the system of their neighbouring countries (although that’s not difficult) but I’d never say it’s better than the Canadian system.

    • Carolyn the Red

      There are issues with the Canadian system, sure. But when we look at them, the Canadian system changes over time to (try to) address them. It’s not like the people, the medical professionals, and the government are leaving our system static. The system today is different than ten years ago. We look to other countries too! Including the US! Yes, In a decade, it will change again. Some changes may fail, some are great. For example – in my province, most family doctors have created practice groups that a patient signs on to, with after-hours clinics associated, sometimes nurse practitioners or other non-MD professionals that handle some care, and so on.

      But I am skeptical these metrics just the same as any others. (whether we come out on top or not) Saying that the “per patient doctor time” is greater in the US based on duration of last visit may not mean as much when some people aren’t seen at all, or if visits are less common due to a per visit co-pay. I go to my doctor, or the associated after-hours clinic, whenever I have an issue. If all I need is a renewal of a prescription, I spent about 2 minutes chatting and confirming I’m not due for another test. If something is really wrong, well, then we talk. Some visits are rushed because I just want to get back to work, and I know I can come back if I need to. My last doctor’s visit was very short – 5 minutes with my OB. But if today I have a mysterious symptom, I can e-mail the office, or call the nurse tomorrow morning. I can get an appointment tomorrow, if the nurse thinks I should come in. If I need to go to the hospital, I can just go right now, my OB will be paged if it’s serious.

      I guess like most of the Canadians, the thing I appreciate about the system is that I can assume I can always get help if I need it. It’s not always instantaneous if it’s for something non-life-threatening. My mother waited about 6 months for each hip replacement. But her doctor was able to put her onto the wait list before she was completely debilitated, with nobody’s approval but the doctor and the patient. My friend just waited 6 weeks for a surgical biopsy, to see if it was a recurrence of her breast cancer (triage here is on the chance of a wait making any difference in outcome, from what I understand). But believe me, there’s a lot of talk, and initiatives, and things tried to get these wait times down.

      It’s harder to access care in remote areas – one of my school classmates is a doctor who flies into remote Inuit communities, when he’s not there, medical help may be a nursing station in another community, or even further away. There’s work going on about how to use fixed communication links to remote areas to give some access to a doctor at all times. I’ve even seen (and was one of the test voices for) a computer translation system for Canadian English to Inuktitut for specialized medical terminology. What I’m saying is, there’s an attempt to find ways to make things better. We don’t just say “It’s awesome here, let’s never change anything”.

      • math_geek

        First of all, I just want to say that I’m approaching the situation of the American health care from an America-centric perspective. Canada becomes interesting only as a question of whether we should emulate it. There would be serious costs to dismantling and remaking the Canadian health care system and given that, gradual improvement will probably be the better tactic.

        However, for me, a 6 month wait for a hip replacement would be horrifying. The ability to utilize my body is an extremely important aspect of my health, and from the articles I’ve read on the Canadian HC system, your mother got lucky. A lot of “flaws” in the Canadian health care system would be difficult to perceive without technical expertise or data driven analysis. Canada cuts costs by increasing wait times, but they also cut costs by waiting longer to update their equipment, and this has a real effect on survival rates for all sorts of diseases.

      • Carolyn the Red

        Actually, at least as of when my mother had her hip replacement, the real wait time for a hip or knee replacement was longer in the US than in Canada. My mother was part of a study across several centres in Canada and the USA, and one of its findings was that patients in the US centres were older and with more advanced arthritis than those in the Canadian centres. Yes, the Canadians reported waits that the americans didn’t – but there is no government approval of one’s arthritis being bad enough. It’s complicated, and the requirement for insurance approval or saving up enough money hides a wait list in the USA. Yes, we need a data analysis, but you need to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

        She didn’t get lucky. A friend is just about through the almost 12 month wait for a knee replacement, but once again, she had her surgery scheduled about as soon as her orthopedic surgeon thought she’d want it “next year”.

        I’m a math type myself – and I don’t see how straight numbers of heart bypasses and cancer survival survival rates without distinguishing between stage of disease are the best metrics. Yes, every hospital makes decisions about replacing equipment based on budget. Sometimes they aren’t the best decisions – but the fact that the government is paying rather than multiple insurance companies doesn’t make it harder to change! If suddenly everyone was paying out of pocket, money wouldn’t magically appear to update equipment at a rural hospital.

      • Tracey

        Math_Geek has clearly drunk the right-wing Kool-Aid and is spewing forth approved Wingnut Talking Points. It’s so transparent.

        As an American, with health insurance I pay nearly $1000 a month for (and my employer pays whatever much extra for), I can guarantee wait times–not just for hip replacements, but for urgent-care situations. My insurance won’t reimburse an emergency room visit unless it’s pre-approved, by calling a 1-800 number and leaving a message and waiting for a callback (which can occur up to 48 hours after the call) authorizing the visit. Otherwise it comes out of my pocket. I’ve been waiting many months for permission to see a specialist for what may be a frightening medical situation. Any visit to any doctor results in a flurry of paperwork with escalating non-payments that I have to cover because they’re always magically outside the prescribed coverage limits.

      • Noelle

        Not sure where you live math_geek, but there are plenty of places in the US where you would wait several months for something like a hip replacement. You could wait that long for a simple referral to a pulmonologist or dermatologist, or any specialty where there aren’t enough available for the population, or if you’re not fortunate enough to have good insurance. Many specialists will take a quota of Medicaid patients per month and that can lead to very long wait times. And I’m not only talking about middle of Nowhere, Nebraska either. My small city has its shortages and waits, and we’re not that far from a major metropolitan area.

        But I’ve never had any polling place or researcher ask what the wait time is here, so I don’t know where they’re getting their numbers from or what they consider as the starting point of wait. I’d count it from the day a patient calls for the PCP initial appointment, or from that appt itself. Not from the appt with the specialist, as that may have already taken many months.

  • jose

    When you never go to the doctor, then universal healthcare is more expensive for you because you’re not using what you’re paying. But you’re paying for something else besides medicines and doctors – the assurance that you have something to rely on if shit happens no matter what your income is.

    My brother had to undergo brain surgery to have a tumor removed when he was still a student. That would have been a life-altering event in America, because my father is a mechanic, not a financial broker. We would probably have had to sell the house in order to pay the surgery. Here, however, my brother was transferred to the best hospital in the country for that kind of operation and spent two weeks there with everything covered. The system also paid for the two plane tickets (for him and for one companion).

    The problem with disease and private companies is that a lung transplant is equally expensive no matter what the patient is: an oil businessman or a janitor. If we believe both of them do necessary work and both of them have the same rights concerning the lung, then we need a system so both of them can afford this very expensive procedure. Food and clothing don’t have this problem because they’re cheap; people in low paying jobs (somebody needs to do those, too) can afford eating and clothes off their wallets. But they can’t afford operations or expensive treatments.

    If this seems unjust, we have to remember many poor and middle class people won’t ever get sick, and they are paying with their taxes the treatments of the sick rich people as well, so it goes both ways.

    • Tragedy101

      Those poor and middle class people who never get sick pay for everybody else without recieving any compensation.

      “From each according to his ability, To each according to his need.”

  • S_Montefiore

    My mother once stated that Canadian health care must be lousy because they come to the States for health care.

    I could have given her the statistics that show just one out of every 200 Canadians have gotten health care in the United States, and 80% of those people did so because they happened to be south of the border at the time. If you’re in Orlando and break your leg, are you going to fly home to Winnipeg to get it set?

    I decided to turn the tables on her. We have a relative who went to Mexico for medical treatment, and another one who went to the Philippines for the same reason. Therefore, I asked her, does this indicate that the U.S. doesn’t have the best healthcare in the world, and that it is inferior to the systems in Mexico and the Philippines?

    Her response: the United States has the best healthcare system in the world, it’s just that some people can’t afford it. Apparently, if the system were to be changed, more people would have to go to Mexico and the Philippines for medical treatment, because the treatment wouldn’t even be available in the States anymore.

    Thus, if people leave Canada to get medical treatment, it means the Canadian health care system is broken. If people leave the United States to get medical treatment, it doesn’t mean anything. Such is the reasoning of the conservative mind.

  • Book Bag

    I am a Canadian, living in Canada. I am currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. I had 6 months of chemo, a month of radiation, and will receive Herceptin treatments for the rest of the year. My “wait time” from diagnosis to surgery was 10 days. Other than a few expenses for additional anti nausea drugs from the drug store, I have paid NOTHING for this treatment. The hospital I go to has a state-of-the-art cancer centre, which emphasizes patient-centred care. I had genetic testing to see if I carried a mutation in the BRCA genes, at no cost. (I don’t, btw). All in all, if I’d had to pay for any of this treatment, my husband and I would have had to get a second mortgage on our house. My taxes might be a little higher, when everyone shares the cost, noone goes broke from getting sick. And EVERYONE gets sick or injured eventually.

  • http://blestpickle.blogspot.com/ Lynne

    Here in Australia we have a two-tiered universal system, have had it for nearly 40 years, and we love it. Sure, it isn’t perfect (what is?) but no one goes into debt for medical problems, and those who wish can take out private insurance on top of the universal medicare levy, and go to private hospitals. Plus most pharmaceuticals have capped fees with the excess covered by the government. To us it seems criminally wrong that anyone would have to sell their house to pay their medical bills. Doctors aren’t as fabulously rich as in the US, but they still earn enough to make it a very desirable profession (and I’m married to one, so I can say that with confidence)

    • Steve

      Multi-tier systems are really the norm. Some have more private insurance than others. but few countries have a true single-payer system.

  • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

    I know a former Canadian who prefers US healthcare (of course, she also complains that she has cleaning help twice a week instead of every day the way her parents had it.)

  • Kevin Alexander

    A few years ago I broke my ankle in an ugly way. A friend drove me to emergency where X-rays were taken and a temporary cast was made while a nurse called around to find a bone surgeon. She fit me into her schedule for the next day.
    My ankle today is stronger than the other one. I never got a bill. If I were an American my house would be mortgaged if not gone. Or I would be limping for the rest of my life.

    I feel the most profound sadness for my American friends who have to live in a world were the simplest idea such as care for a helpless person has to depend on whether or not some nameless shareholder can make a profit on it.

    • Steve

      The most disgusting part is that this travesty is then sold as “freedom”. As if health isn’t required for one’s personal liberty and to achieve one’s goals in life.

    • Rosa

      today on facebook, a woman in a group I’m in asked: I found deer ticks on my child, what should I do? Several of us said, go to the doctor for a thorough bite check and their opinion on prophylactic antibiotics for Lyme disease. She said: we don’t have health insurance so I can’t do that unless it’s really urgent.

      I think she’s convinced it’s urgent now, or at least I hope so. But those kinds of gambles – do I wait and see if this is horrible, at which point it will be traumatic and expensive? But if I go to the doctor (our one emergency room visit with a child, with insurance, had a $400 copay.) and it turns out to be nothing, I just dropped a ton of time and cash for no reason. So we all have to play doctor at home all the time.

  • Noelle

    I went to med school with a Canadian. At first she complained about her country’s system and said we had it better. Then she got sick. And the bills started adding up. She changed her tune. I never even had to think about this before, she said. Every little lab test and follow-up doctor visit and medicine, it all added up so quickly. She was a First Nations woman (First Nations is Canadian for Native American), and understandably had some valid gripes about Canada. But the US lost that round. Then we told her we had a horrible history with our own natives. I wonder if she got disgusted and took off for a different continent.

  • Dionigi

    Looking at Wikipedia rates of tax for various countries Canadian ta is maybe 4 or 5% higher than the States so that amount of tax and free healthcare for all sounds good to me. I am an expat Brit and do not know what I shall do when my insurance runs out or my provider has made so many exceptions to the policy that it will not cover me anymore.

  • Meggie

    # I have never had to pay to see a GP.
    # I pay to see my specialist and the money is refunded by the government through Medicare.
    # I often have to wait for a few days to see a GP because I live in a rural area where there is a doctor shortage. Specialist appointments are usually made three months ahead of time because they are based in Sydney or Canberra and travel out to my area one day a week. If it was urgent, I could travel to their practices in these cities.
    # If I travel in an ambulance or go to a hospital for treatment, I will not receive a bill.
    Sure there are flaws. My in-laws have private insurance so they get to choose their doctor and hospital – I do not. Waiting lists in the private hospital system tend to be shorter so those with private insurance do get treated earlier than those without. I’d still choose Aus over USA any day. Your system terrifies me.

  • Ismenia

    I’m in the UK and I find the US system terrifying. I was amazed when I first found out that the US did not have free healthcare. More recently the controversy over reforms has meant that the US system has had more coverage in our media, plus I’ve read more from US sources. I was still astounded by the extent of the problem and the fact that so many people do not think that it is a problem.

    All British people are familiar with some of the problems with our National Health Service but mostly we don’t think much of it when we get medical care for free. Plus, there still is private insurance available anyway (problematic as the NHS train all the staff who move to the private sector but that’s a different debate) for those that can afford it.

    The recent contraception debates in the US have seemed particularly surreal because here contraception is free. Contraceptive pills are even exempt from the usual prescription charges (around £7.50 per item, although various categories of person are exempt) presumably because unwanted pregancies would place a huge drain on NHS and general welfare resources.

  • lucifermourning

    I’m an American living in the UK, and the US system horrifies me. I was lucky enough to never have to worry about health care, due to my parents having excellent coverage and moving over here when I was 22 (and still covered by my parents’ insurance).

    But I still remember not going to a docto because of the $25 co-pay, and I worry very much about my younger sister, who has type 1 diabetes. I would wholeheartedly support “Obamacare” for her sake alone – she’s still covered by my parents because of it, and by the time she’s too old for that, additional provisions will have kicked in.

    Conservatives talk about “entrepreneurship”, but surely fear of lack of health care is a good way to drive people away from starting their own businesses? I worked for a fantastic start-up for 5 years, which would certainly never have been able to provide me with healthcare. Fortunately, the NHS meant I never worried about that, and got to help build a brilliant small business that provides employment for quite a few people.

    Yes, the NHS has its flaws, but I would now never consider returning to the US unless I were offered a job with excellent health care, plus a salary high enough that I didn’t have to worry about co-pays. And if I lost that job, I would move straight back to the UK.

  • http://bloggbib.net/Tanz/ Eva

    I’m a Norwegian, and like most people over here I find the US system terrifying. We have a system were you pay part of what a visit to the doctor and necessary medication costs, up to around US$ 400 a year. If you pass that amount, the rest is free. You also don’t need to ask for permission to go to the emergency room, it’s up to you.

    I can’t really compare taxes, but… .I read another comment from someone in the US paying $1000 per month for health coverage, and that is probably not far from what I pay per month in taxes on a middle class income. Taxes that includes health coverage, defense, roads, schools, police, fire departments……, and so on.

    Yes, there is some waiting for some procedures, but also guarantees that you will get treated within a certain time. Our system is not perfect, but on average it’s pretty good.

    • Tracey

      Unless you’re one of the 1% in America, you’re paying about 30% of your income in taxes. On top of that you pay sales tax on most things you buy (generally uncooked food has no tax, and various states have various tax rates on various items–clothing might be 6% and movies 8% and durable goods 4%, for example). On top of THAT is health care; generally the employer pays some percentage and the employee pays the rest. Self-employed and those whose employers don’t offer health insurance (a shocking amount of employers don’t) must do the best the can and pay for their own insurance, or go uninsured. Those who are insured must also pay co-pays.

      I went to the doctor yesterday; took me over a month to get the appointment. I waited a half-hour to check in, paid my $60 co-pay (this is on top of the monthly amount deducted from my paycheck), waited another 2 hours in the waiting room, and finally got called back. The doctor breezed in, spent about a minute talking to me, and wrote me a referral to another doctor, for which I will have to go through the same procedure and pay the same co-pay, and a lab slip where I will have to show up and pay yet another co-pay for someone to take my blood, and in a couple of weeks I’ll receive a bill for whatever portion my insurance whimsically declines not to pay. I’ve been calling the number for the second doctor all morning and have gotten a consistent busy signal, or the two times I’ve picked up the phone, have waded through the “push 1, push 2″ hell only to get to a point where the system hangs up on me.

      America only has the best medical system in the world if you are one of the 1% with a private concierge doctor service.

  • Ibis3

    Another Canadian here, relieved every day that I don’t live in the US. Sure our system could be improved (and it *is* always being improved), but I don’t have some insurance company execs making big bucks off of my suffering, I don’t have to pay for basic or emergency care, I don’t have to worry about finances on top of being sick or injured, I don’t have my employer controlling my health care decisions, I can change or lose my job without losing medical coverage, I don’t have to worry about some “pre-existing condition” loophole that allows some insurance company employee to deny me insurance and so on. If anything, I want more of the same, not less–more things covered (like glasses, basic dental care, and prescription medicines).

    And Carolyn is right–you can’t do a very good comparison of American to Canadian systems because you’re bound to be leaving off the effects on the uninsured. How accurate is a wait time measurement that doesn’t count people who have to wait forever because they can’t afford a doctor’s visit let alone a hip replacement? If I have to wait 6 months for a knee replacement because the operating room is being used for my neighbour’s heart surgery, or a homeless person’s cancer surgery, well that’s fine by me.

  • 24fps

    I’m also Canadian.

    My experience with the health care system here is pretty good. I don’t pay a fee to visit the doctor of my choice (surprised to hear that one can’t freely choose in Australia) or visit an ER if need be. Yes, there is wait time for non-urgent surgeries, but there are in the US as well. We pay a slightly higher tax rate than USians, but if you tie in cost of medical insurance + taxes, we actually pay less overall. And we are absolutely as technically advanced as the US, contra ridiculous statement upthread.

    Regarding Canadians going to the US for treatment: Because of regional issues, sometimes the government will pay for a visit to a US facility. For example, if you’re living in Windsor, Ontario, you’re just across the border from Detroit, but two hours drive from Toronto. If you need something done that isn’t available in Windsor, it’s actually cheaper to send the Canuck to Detroit sometimes. Our health care system still covers the bill in its entirety. So it isn’t just queue-jumpers who wind up going to the States on occasion.

    And we’ve courted disaster ourselves, very glad we’re not in the US: Our shockingly healthy family isn’t much of a strain on the system in day to day terms. But on a ski trip out of town, my 12 yr old daughter took a fall and broke her hip. It was an undetected congenital weakness – could have been a pre-existing condition for an insurance company to deny. It was a bad break. She was in traction to re-align the bone for 4 days, in incredible pain. Worst days of my life, watching my sweetie hurt. Guess what? We had the best surgeon in the province meet us at the hospital. Nobody asked me about my finances. I filled out one form about my kid’s health history and a parental consent. That’s it. She had surgery on day 5 to pin the femur and we had follow up appointments and x-rays over the next year to monitor healing and bone growth to rule out complications. Cadillac grade care.

    We’re also self-employed, so if we’d been in the US, we might not have had insurance. If we did, we could have been denied coverage. We’d have lost everything. As it was, I was able to work from the hospital and lost some work time to be with my girl, but I didn’t lose my house. Say what you will about Canadian-style health care’s flaws, it comes through when it counts for the vast majority of people in this country every day.

  • Mogg

    One can freely choose a general practitioner in Australia, unless you choose to go to a clinic which operates on a ‘first doctor available’ basis. You may have a small fee at a clinic on top of the Medicare payment at a clinic where you see your own doctor, but not always. If you happen to have a preference in specialists you can choose them too, unless you are avoiding fees altogether by going to a public hospital clinic for whichever specialist care you need.

  • Alchemist

    We have public health care here in New Zealand, meaning anyone who needs care gets it. Sometimes we must wait for non-urgent treatment, but most if us feel that’s fair enough. Why should a desperatly I’ll person have to wait in line while someone gets their non-urgent problem sorted? It’s not perfect but what is?
    We do have the option of private care and many of us carry medical cover, but even for those that do so it’s always a great comfort to know that we and our families can get medical treatment at any hospital whenever we need it, not just when we can afford it.