Sunday, August 16, 2009

Canadian Healthcare

I recently asked two Canadian bloggers to give us details about the Canadian health care system, which is known to provide universal coverage. I thought it might help us sort through the partisan "facts" we're being given about reforming health care here in America. You will find the Canadian responses below. Thank you so much, ladies, for taking the time to do this!

Don and I are concerned about the tax burden coming our way from a health-care overhaul. We agree that we need a system that covers everyone, but coupled with the higher energy bills forced on us by Cap and Trade, higher taxes will undoubtedly force me--and other stay-at-home moms--into the workforce. Moreover, we might be forced to obtain cheap, low-quality daycare. Our gas and electric together already run between $280 and $325/month. While not having health care is a huge worry, not being able to raise my own children is an even bigger burden--it's a heartbreaker actually.

Authored by Sandi, from the A Mother's Musings blog.

This is such a hot and difficult topic. For the record I am an American who's been living in Canada for 11 years.

There are pros and cons to both systems. Health Care in Canada is NOT free as others seem to think. The taxes are high IMO and we pay a monthly fee, yet when we couldn't pay it was free. The crazy thing about that though is they base your coverage off your last year's income. So if you made 100,000 last year....your med coverage is based on that when you are unemployed the next year. Doesn't make too much sense.

In Canada you do wait for things. If you have a heart attack they deal with it but several other non life-threatening yet painful surgeries are cancelled to do so. I remember with one of the babies I lost at 12 weeks, I spent 5 hours in the hospital waiting for the DNC, with IV all hooked up ready to go. I was sent home because of some emergency and was told they had no idea when I could get in again to have it done. They said my only option was meds to force it. My baby had been gone for 4 weeks and even with that risk I was sent home. It does feel like at times you have to be dying to get attention. Waiting for a hip replacement for 18 months is a real quality of life issue.

But I also have a friend whose husband was diagnosed with cancer and he was taken care of right away. You wait for MRI's, which shouldn't wait. The waiting list to get a child evaluated for ADHD, Austism, etc. is up to 2 years where I live. We went private and fortunately have great extended medical through my husband's work. If you don't have extended or money wait.

When government runs everything with a heavy hand, that spells trouble to me.

My personal experience in Canada--no tomatoes please--is that this health care system has created an entitlement mentality. People go to emerg for silly things because it won't cost them extra money. Doctor's offices become revolving doors instead of a place to get "needed" care. It is almost impossible where I live to get a family doctor; they aren't taking patients.

Yet, the socialist way is that all are equal and shouldn't go without care due to lack of money. Which is a great idea and I agree, but how to do that practically is the dilemma.

Yet again, there is a quality of life issue that comes up. When my son was pre-natally diagnosed with T-18, they wrote him off and told me they WOULD NOT medically help him when he was born. They can legally do that on the grounds that he wouldn't have a full life anyway. They even suggested I starve him if he did live through labor. Let's just say they got an earful.

I did have four births and 2 miscarriages without paying a dime above our monthly fee and taxes so it "feels" like it's free, but nothing is it!

Not sure if this helps.

Authored by Steph, from the Footnotes blog.

First off, no system is perfect. Sandi is right - there are pros and cons to both. I also agree that, technically, our health care is not free. We do pay higher taxes in Canada. My parents traveled in the States last summer and were amazed by how inexpensive it was to eat in a restaurant. Once you pile on the taxes here, it can get costly. I also agree with Sandi's entitlement comment. This is something that annoys me - I hate people going to emerge for hangnails. I consider very carefully before I go to the doctor because I know the system is sometimes stretched.

I think what astounds me the most about the American reaction is that it sounds to me (and forgive me if I am wrong or oversimplifying) that what is being proposed would simply guarantee coverage for people who don't have insurance. I think many politicians are opting for partisan politics and scare-mongering rather than trying to find ways to make this work, which is typical of democracy. I was amazed to learn that millions and millions of Americans don't have health insurance. The idea that there are people in the U.S. who opt not to go to the doctor for something truly serious because they will have to pay for it is so foreign to me - and I think that is an unfortunate thing for a developed nation.

Yes, our taxes are higher. Yes, our system is overburdened. Yes, we have a shortage of doctors in some communities (they can make more money in the States so that's where many of them go). Yes, sometimes wait times are longer. But these are all things that an injection of cash can fix, and up until the economic recession, government surpluses helped. Wait times vary depending on the community, but if it's an emergency you're dealt with. My mom has had two knee replacements. She had to wait several months, but didn't pay a dime. My dad has had heart surgery (quadruple bypass) and colon surgery (cancer) and was treated in a reasonable timeframe and didn't pay a dime. I have had two babies and two miscarriages. I had good care and didn't pay a dime.

I am a Canadian and have lived in the same community for most of my life. I was fortunate to have the same doctor for about 30 years before he left his practice, and was lucky enough to find another doctor in my town even though there is a doctor shortage. My experiences with our health care system have, so far, been good. Not everyone has positive experiences and, yes, there can be glitches, but the comfort of knowing that if I am sick I don't have to think about seeking help - I wouldn't trade that.

I think governments - yours and mine - need to put people first more often. I would rather see my tax dollars go to health care and the environment than to many other "priorities" that have been deemed in Canada. Maybe both of our governments need to think about redirecting cash spent on other initiatives. After all, healthy people can achieve great things.

I don't know if that tomatoes here, I hope! :)


Andrew & Terri said...

Thank you so much for sharing these with us! This was a very thought-provoking post and I appreciated hearing two different points of view from people with real experiences.

Sandi-Your story of your miscarriage and about your son is heartbreaking. I'm so sorry you had to go through that!

Steph-Thanks for sharing your experiences also. I'm glad that some people are well taken care of. I do wonder if that is really the majority's experience.


momma's heart said...

Yes, I was in tears reading about the treatment Sandi and her baby received. It is hard to fathom how such health laws could have been written.