Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I've recently had a couple of conversations regarding health care in the US and particularly as it pertains to President Obama's plans for reform and the potential of ending up "like Canada." First, it's important to remember that I AM CANADIAN, and I have 20+ years of experiencing the "socialized medicine" that exists there. I also have 10+ years of experiencing the US side of medical health, so I'd like to think I have a perspective that most talking heads, pundits and members of the general public DO NOT have.

One particular thing that I HATE hearing is all of the generic comments about people waiting so long that they die because they cannot get treatment for cancer or a transplant, etc. My brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. He got aggressive treatment with very little wait, at a great cancer treatment facility in Hamilton. Unlike in the US, he didn't have to go into debt to receive treatment.

The Miami Herald actually published an article recently that referenced a study conducted of 1000 Americans & 1000 Canadians, asking them different questions about their health care. While the wait times were recognized to be higher in the Canadian system, what is most shocking is the gap in those who thought they could AFFORD care.

This gets right down to my personal pet peeve in the whole discussion. If you HAVE care, you complain about the wait times. If you have NO CARE you'd take that over a wait time ANY DAY of the week! And right now, those with care are the reasons why so many are going without. Because, it doesn't matter if you can walk into an ER, your doctor or a specialist and get seen right away - if you can't afford the treatment they prescribe - or can't even afford to sit down and meet with them because you can't afford the insurance premiums.

I have to say, growing up in Canada, I took it for granted that I could go to the DR and not have to pay a dime. I didn't need to choose between $20 in my tank or a $20 co-pay, but in the US, some people do. It frustrates me when people of power like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of KY, start using personal stories as propaganda for political gain. There's a great piece here about CNN's coverage and the unreported components of the "we're going to have universal healthcare and everyone will die because we're like Canada" crap being spouted by some.

When you get right down to it - every day, care is denied by insurance companies for various reasons. You have to wait everywhere for EVERYTHING, some places longer than others. But if it's not even an option, than it's a moot argument. As a Christian, I can't understand how we shouldn't be in favour of providing healthcare for everyone - whether we pay for it for them or not...


DDerus said...

One thing I think you are leaving out of the equation is that the US is not Canada. We are two very different nations that share a language (mostly) and a border. We don't do government programs well. I don't want the government that brought us FEMA/Katrina to be in charge of my health. The health system is broken. No doubt. But there are other options besides socializing it.

My pet peeve in the debate is when insured people speak on behalf of the uninsured. When I tell them that I am uninsured and I disagree with their premise I am told that my opinion doesn't reflect the uninsured.

Don said...

Point taken, the US is not Canada. And the answer for the US is probably not what happens in Canada, but the argument that changing the system to open it up and provide care for people who can't currently afford care (the lower-middle class working poor, mainly) will bring about socialism like in Canada is a red herring. As you said, the US is not Canada.

As for your opinion - the beauty of it is, it speaks for you and you alone, just as my opinion speaks for me alone. I don't know whether your reflect the uninsured or not. My guess is that most uninsured people want to have affordable access to GOOD healthcare. If that means a gov't run program versus nothing, my guess is that they'd take it (especially when you're talking about your kids). But not knowing all of them, I can't say that's a fact.

I know we both agree that the system is broken. And for me, movement toward greater coverage is better than staying where we are.

DDerus said...

I miss being able to have these conversations in person. :(

SJ Austin said...

Thanks for your thoughts. As you know, I've been guilty of playing the "waiting period" card with respect to socialized health care. It's a good corrective to share your story, though have you ever needed hip replacement or something of that nature? Those seem to be the types of medical services that Canada's system fails to provide within reasonable time. Either way, I'll give less weight to that argument in the future.

The point about the differences between the US and Canada is good, too. I'm not sure how Canada's record is with housing and retirement, but the US government has sure done a terrible job with centralizing these "services," so I am very wary of turning healthcare over to them, especially at the astronomical cost they are projecting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Don for offering an informed opinion. At various times in my life I have been uninsured, underinsured, and insured. When I was uninsured I would have settled for waiting in line to get treatment in a gov't run program over no treatment at all.

Offering the option of a gov't program will not turn the US into a socialist country. If people would use critical thinking skills to evaluate the situation we could actually accomplish something.