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Healthcare In Canada

Lee's picture

I'm waiting for the President's news conference to start and thought I'd lob a question toward our Canadian posters:


Healthcare reform is at the top of the President's agenda, and he wants a public option for those who can't afford private insurance, or who prefer the public insurance plan, whatever that may turn out to be, to the private plan they now have.  The Republicans have mounted an assault on the President's plan and have taken particular aim at the evils of "government run healthcare."  In their effort to strike fear and terror into the hearts of us dumb taxpayers who can't afford medical insurance, are afraid of losing our coverage, or are being crushed by the high cost of medical insurance, they have been talking about, and casting aspersions on, the Canadian healthcare system.  Mitch McConnell, the Republican minorty leader in the Senate, related a story about a friend (unnamed) who told him of a Canadian man he knew (unnamed) who died recently because he was deemed to old to be given the medical care he needed.  Others are saying that people die while waiting in long lines for an opening to see a doctor or while waiting for a necessary procedure (of course, no sick person dies in this country while waiting to see a doctor or for a medical procedure).  Still others simply assert that we don't want the kind of subpar medical care that you unfortunate Canadians contend with.


It's obvious that this is a group effort to defeat Obama's heath reform initiative with the aim of crippling him politically.  As one Republican senator put it, they will "break him" by blocking this legislation.  


So, should we be very afraid?  What's the real story about your system of healthcare? 

shywoodlandcreature's picture

(post #52788, reply #1 of 351)

Okay: Here goes. It's flawed, but the flaws aren't terminal. (Peter will likely give you a different perspective from mine, so you will get something like a balanced view between the two of us). The basic philosophy of the Canadian system is that nobody should have to suffer financial catastrophe because of a medical catastrophe. And so far, so good. Our health care premium for the two of us is about $98/month -- BC is one of the few (perhaps only?) jurisdictions in Canada to bill directly - I believe in other provinces health care is financed through a sales tax. For that $98 we have pretty much complete basic coverage (though not dental care - don't ask. I don't know why not). Our extended benefits, usually through an employer, cover things like eye glasses, chiropractic treatments, hearing aids, prescription meds, etc. If we didn't have extended benefits, prescriptions would be paid for by the provincial gov't after we reached some cap - in our case, that would be $1,000/year.

When I had my heart surgery a few years ago, everything - private room, ambulance - everything - was covered 100%. My surgeon was/is the head of cardiology in one of the premier cardiology departments in the country. My continuing care cardiologist is head of the department of cardiology at UBC. When Peter had gall bladder surgery he had it at the UBC hospital - an excellent facility. So we certainly can't complain about competence. We get to change doctors at will, though currently we are both very happy with the GP we have. Routine, maintenance care is superb. No problems there.

Now for the downside. When I had a sudden hearing loss a few years back, the ENT doc wanted an MRI to try to pinpoint the cause. Since this wasn't life-threatening, I was on the wait list - six months, which I think is simply unacceptable. We chose to go to a private clinic, and paid for the MRI, which was done the same week we booked the appointment. That was, technically, illegal, but I deducted the cost from my income tax, and it was accepted, so go figure...

In short, (and this is only my opinion, understand) where the Canadian system excells is in acute care, and in routine care. Where it falls short is in that vast middle ground where no lives are at stake, but there may be chronic pain or anxiety, or uncertainty. I think there's room to introduce private care, but it has to be done very carefully so as not to jeopardize the universal care we have.

I've had this discussion more times than I can count over at Breaktime, and whenever I'm met with skepticism about the benefits of our system, my default answer is to call, at random, say a dozen Canadians, and ask them if they'd prefer to keep the system they have, or move to a system like the US has. My money says the overwhelming majority would vote to keep what we have, though maybe we should get busy and fix the parts that are broken.

I'll be following this discussion with interest. I want to hear what other Canucks have to say, as well at the US perspectives. Thanks for introducing it.




"And then, because of the transitive reactive Halstead-era seizing properties of the Aboriginal Double Humpback Turtle, I thought, what if I add one teaspoon of clarified monkey paste?" Anonymous blog comment on "America's Test Kitchen"
MadMom's picture

(post #52788, reply #2 of 351)

Your comments are interesting, and about what I would say about the system of military medical care we were covered under while Ray was in the Army.  You couldn't ask for better care for acute conditions or for the routine preventive medicine, but for non-life threatening things, it wasn't nearly as good.  Do we get better care now with three insurance policies (which, incidentally, cost us about $500/month, Tricare is free)?  Of course we do.  Does the person who has no insurance get decent care?  NO NO NO. 



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

Lee's picture

(post #52788, reply #3 of 351)

I was hoping you would among those offering their perspective.


Why is there such a long wait for tests relating to non-life threatening health problems?  

shywoodlandcreature's picture

(post #52788, reply #4 of 351)

I think the simple answer is lack of money. As for the more complicated, thorough answer, someone more savvy about the inner workings of our health care system than I am will have to jump in here.




"And then, because of the transitive reactive Halstead-era seizing properties of the Aboriginal Double Humpback Turtle, I thought, what if I add one teaspoon of clarified monkey paste?" Anonymous blog comment on "America's Test Kitchen"

Glenys's picture

(post #52788, reply #8 of 351)

There was a piece on the news tonight, an interview with the ad agency that made some "horror story" commercials for the Republicans or whoever the nay-sayers are. They found some Canadians on-line willing to give "testimony" about their experiences and Medicare's shortcomings. The one patient's featured testimony had her going to the U.S. funded by a second mortgage on her home and loans from friends and family. Of course we'll never know the entire story, but in the end she got what she paid for, although she claims in Canada they wouldn't treat her. On the other side of the coin, I know many wealthy people who've decided to go to the Mayo or Sloan-Kettering, but they were told they'd received the correct diagnosis and treatment here. Reassurance but resignation at the same time I suppose. Money doesn't always buy miraculous healthcare; diagnosis and treatment isn't always perfect.

What system will ever be flawless? Never will be, it has to always be evolving. People are living substantially longer. In British Columbia, one of the problems has been keeping up with the aging generations' demands, more so than any other area of treatment. At least the system is addressing a holistic approach to health and prevention. My parents live in Saskatchewan (founding province of the system) and at 78, Dad is waiting for a hip replacement without any discussion of "worthiness" because of his age. They're still going to give him a titanium hip although I doubt he'll ever be the dancer he used to be.

Like Sandra, I've never received anything but the best care, with doctors of my choice, and even when I had to have reconstructive micro-surgery on my hand in the ER, I paid no further charge other than my basic premiums. My surgery was perfect. I can book a mammogram any time I want for free; my doctor sends me for all the usual specialist check-ups (or downs and ins) needed at our age without additional fees or costs.

I've said this before but the fundamental difference is in creating a system of "healthcare" rather than a complex system of insurance. We're born, we age and eventually die, it's not the place for a risk management based system. I have secondary health insurance for traveling, that's my need and choice. Some people have secondary Blue Cross for other emergency and chronic care situations, but no one will ever have to decide if they can or can't take their child to the doctor or have prenatal care or have a loved one lose their home over their very existence in our society.

I realise there's much misinformation out there about our system but I'd answer any question the best I can. Many of the doctors I know, especially the specialists, who've come from other Western countries, have made the choice to live and work here, even after extensive education or experience in the U.S. It can't be all bad?

Edited 7/22/2009 11:00 pm by Glenys


Edited 7/22/2009 11:05 pm by Glenys

Glenys's picture

(post #52788, reply #9 of 351)

OK, what I want to know is who pays for those freaky freakin' Duggers to have eighteen children? Guess that's why they have to do television.

TracyK's picture

(post #52788, reply #59 of 351)

I would support using taxpayer funds to get that poor woman a decent freaking haircut. Sheesh!!


"Attend to the details. Teach your children manners. Write cogent paragraphs. Drive carefully. And make a good potato salad, one with some crunch, maybe accompanied by a fried drumstick with crackly skin -- the humble potato and the stupid chicken, ennobled by diligent cooking -- and is this not the meaning of our beautiful country, to take what is common and enable it to become beautiful?"

                                                            -- Garrison Keillor

Glenys's picture

(post #52788, reply #62 of 351)

Amen sister. Seeing that mop cut could actually be a religious experience for me.

Heather's picture

(post #52788, reply #68 of 351)

I had no idea who the Duggers were so I Googled--turns out it is the Duggars. I made the mistake of clicking on a slideshow of the family--I'm speechless! I had to stop when I got to the one with the wife gazing in awe at her husband "because he is the spiritual leader of the home." And the hair!!

Canuck's picture

(post #52788, reply #69 of 351)

They've been doing programs with the dad trying to do "boy things" with the girls to show how equal opportunity they are LOL. That show really doesn't bother me as much as many others. They do seem quite happy, and the kids are certainly pleasant. It's not exactly the way I'm bringing up my kids or speaking of my DH LOL, but different strokes....

Heather's picture

(post #52788, reply #70 of 351)

How old are the parents? Are they going to be done soon?
And how do they afford their huge home? Not to mention college. And health insurance--to get back on point.

Canuck's picture

(post #52788, reply #73 of 351)

Michelle has said that this might be their last (it's God's will) since I think she's 45. (All the kids' names start with J). They own some commercial property so that's how they pay for things. I don't know about college; likely the girls are supposed to get married quickly. The oldest boy just married, and his wife is pregnant.  I don't know about health care either.


The reason they've had so many is because she was on the Pill after they married. Got pregnant soon after coming off it (I think) and miscarried. They blamed this on the Pill and themselves, then decided to leave the number of children to God.

TracyK's picture

(post #52788, reply #71 of 351)

I agree.


I mean, I definitely think it is wack-tastic, in part because -- well, holy cow, that poor woman's uterus and tummy must be the very definition of plum wore out, and plus, the CLOTHES... peter pan collars and jumper-dresses? On teenagers and adult women? *shudder* (Though in more recent shows the crazy seems toned down a bit.)


BUT -- to each his/her own. And also, the family has been debt-free for ages, and built their own compound, so who's to complain? I'd rather have a family of Duggars than an Octomom.



"Attend to the details. Teach your children manners. Write cogent paragraphs. Drive carefully. And make a good potato salad, one with some crunch, maybe accompanied by a fried drumstick with crackly skin -- the humble potato and the stupid chicken, ennobled by diligent cooking -- and is this not the meaning of our beautiful country, to take what is common and enable it to become beautiful?"

                                                            -- Garrison Keillor

Canuck's picture

(post #52788, reply #74 of 351)

Wack-tastic is my new word.


 

Marcia's picture

(post #52788, reply #78 of 351)

ROFL.

MadMom's picture

(post #52788, reply #18 of 351)

I always think it is interesting that the people who are making the most of the scare tactics are (a) people who have insurance, (b) people who mistakingly say that the US has "the best health care system in the world", when we probably are near the last in developed nations, and (c) people who manage to dig up some dirt about other systems.  No system is perfect, but ours is broken, and we need to fix it.  And no, it isn't "socialized medicine" any more than we have "socialized education", "socialized police and firefighters", "socialized military", ad infinitum.




Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!
Canuck's picture

(post #52788, reply #19 of 351)

From the information I've read the US spends a LOT more on health care and gets less overall for it.


However, I'm aware that not everyone thinks everyone should be entitled to "free" health care. When I was young, naive, and pregnant with my first, we visited Pennsylvania. Had dinner at one of those places where you sit a long table and pass Pennsylvania Dutch food. People noticed that I was pregnant and asked about our health care system. I babbled away about how great it was and how everyone could get care when they needed it etc. Then one woman pointed out that she wasn't at all interested in paying so that "the lazies" could get free health care. There were nods all around from the others. DH and I were shocked and just went back to eating pickles. My sister and I still laugh about this since it was--and is--such a foreign concept to us.

MadMom's picture

(post #52788, reply #20 of 351)

Just like we pay for the "lazies" to go to school, to be defended from crime, to have their fires put out, to have their freedom defended.  Health care is a basic right. 



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

Canuck's picture

(post #52788, reply #21 of 351)

You are so right.

Lee's picture

(post #52788, reply #43 of 351)

Health care is a basic right. 


Bingo!  Therein lies the problem.  Americans, as a people, have never believed this simple, basic principle.  We need health insurance if we want quality care, but it has always been up to each individual or family to figure out how to get it.  What we get depends on on much we can or are willing to pay for coverage as well as on how well informed we are about the dizzying number of plans offered by myriad insurance companies.  Those who can't afford to buy even basic coverage, or who have a pre-existing condition that prevents them from obtaining coverage, have been left to seek help in emergency rooms and free clinics (fast disappearing, in these times) which, given the numbers of people seeking services, are almost always underfunded and understaffed.  Do the naysayers really believe this is better than what Canadians have?


I think the system we have which allows almost 50 million people to be without any coverage at all is a national disgrace.  Healthcare reform has become a primary concern only because the current economic crisis has created millions of unemployed workers who have lost their coverage. 

MadMom's picture

(post #52788, reply #64 of 351)

Any murderer who is serving life in prison without parole can get whatever medical care he or she needs (or in some cases, wants).  To think that there are 40-50 million Americans who have to wait until their illness becomes bad enough that they have to visit an emergency room is simply unacceptable to me. 



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

Glenys's picture

(post #52788, reply #65 of 351)

OK, here's where Murray would chime in about sex change operations being paid for in the penal system in Canada. I really never thought about it but maybe it's a way to shift some of the population to the women's system.

TracyK's picture

(post #52788, reply #66 of 351)

I cannot imagine that's very widespread... also, it'd be a rare doctor that would just perform a sex change operation without significant psychological evaluation and assessment.


"Attend to the details. Teach your children manners. Write cogent paragraphs. Drive carefully. And make a good potato salad, one with some crunch, maybe accompanied by a fried drumstick with crackly skin -- the humble potato and the stupid chicken, ennobled by diligent cooking -- and is this not the meaning of our beautiful country, to take what is common and enable it to become beautiful?"

                                                            -- Garrison Keillor

Glenys's picture

(post #52788, reply #79 of 351)

It's actually quite common, but it goes without saying, there's a lot of very complex planning by some to get the job done. Remember, this is Canada and more specifically, the LeftCoast.

KarenP's picture

(post #52788, reply #120 of 351)

I cannot imagine that's very widespread... also, it'd be a rare doctor that would just perform a sex change operation without significant psychological evaluation and assessment.

 It is common in the US, as well.  We had a PA spend some time training in our office.  His wife, also a PA, works in the transgender clinic at a California state prison. 

TracyK's picture

(post #52788, reply #125 of 351)

I think I misspoke. I don't mean to say the incidence of prisoners undergoing transgender surgery is rare, just that it's probably not actually all that common for folks who otherwise would never seek such treatment to request gender transformation surgery solely to get transferred to a women's prison. And even rarer that such an attempt would be successful given the evaluation and counseling required.



"Attend to the details. Teach your children manners. Write cogent paragraphs. Drive carefully. And make a good potato salad, one with some crunch, maybe accompanied by a fried drumstick with crackly skin -- the humble potato and the stupid chicken, ennobled by diligent cooking -- and is this not the meaning of our beautiful country, to take what is common and enable it to become beautiful?"

                                                            -- Garrison Keillor


Edited 7/24/2009 9:38 am ET by TracyK

KarenP's picture

(post #52788, reply #225 of 351)

     You're very right.  The interesting note, at least in the CA prisons that I'm aware of, is that they are not transferred to another prison.  If you were a man now a woman, you are still at xxx prison for men.
     

kathymcmo's picture

(post #52788, reply #76 of 351)

Not true of California prisons, the care is very substandard, resulting in much costly litigation for the state govt.

JoeB2's picture

(post #52788, reply #218 of 351)

I wish we could get a more sensible plan where 90% of medical issues are paid directly to trained professionals, as professional services, and the other 10% is subsidized in some fashion.. similar to how it works in Mexico.

I would love a full plan where someone was taking care of everything, but I just do not trust our government (democrat or republican) to do this right. I really think it is just going to be another money grab. Just look at how this stimulus fiasco is playing out, look at what we got for the "investment" in iraq, look at what they did to the housing market by giving houses out for everyone. It's one money grab after another when you pull back the BS.

hambiscuit's picture

(post #52788, reply #246 of 351)

" look at what they did to the housing market by giving houses out for everyone. It's one money grab after another when you pull back the BS."


Ummmmm......The guv'ment didn't give out houses to everyone, the mortgage companies did that. The money grab came when mortgage companies preyed upon these people, falsifying income levels, leaving off car payments...making money for themselves rather than sticking to rules as to who could qualify for a loan. Imagine a family who never ever thought they might own a home because of their lower middle class incomes. They were such easy targets for the mortgage companies. They were royally robbed, and not by government.


Wall Street made the biggest money grab selling worthless securities and gambling our money. A little government regulation could have saved us retirees a lot of heartache.....and the rest of the world.