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Canadian Health Care system

Posted by Nancy N on 2/17/03 at 10:09 (109456)

I've just read some letters to the editor of the New York Times in reponse to an article they did on the Canadian health care system. I haven't yet read the article they're responding to, but one letter is from an American who lives in Montreal, and the other is from a Canadian who lives in Philly.

We hear so much here about universal health care and waiting for doctor appointments and surgeries, all presented as though the Canadian system (and the British system, too, I imagine) are nightmares of poor medical care. But both these letters come out far in favor--the American says that after seeing the Canadian system up-close, she's come to think of the US system as 'backward and discriminatory,' commenting on how her neighbors are baffled by such US terms as 'pre-existing condition.'

The Canadian notes that 'according to data from the World Health Organization, the Canadian system outperforms the American system on all major measures longer life expectancy, longer healthy life expectancy, lower child and adult mortality.' He also says that few Canadians would be willing to trade their system, with its imperfections, for the system in the US.

Since we have some Canadians who post here, I'm curious what the general perception is in Canada--both of the Canadian system and of the US system. (I can cut/paste the letters to the editor if anyone would find them helpful, too.)

Re: Canadian Health Care system

wendyn on 2/17/03 at 11:17 (109465)

Nancy - this subject has come up quite a bit on this board (it's led to some good discussion between Pauline and I).

Despite the problems we have with our health care - I wouldn't trade it for your system. I can't imagine having to live with the idea that a serious illness or car accident could bankrupt me. Yes - sometimes we have to wait for treatment - but in the vast majority of cases - its those who can wait that do. (i.e. you're going to wait a lot longer for an MRI if you have a sore ankle - than if you have a brain tumor).

No - it's not a perfect system - and yes it's very expensive. But - I still wouldn't trade it. I like the idea of knowing that an inner city poor kid with cancer will receive the same treatment as a child who's parents have money.

Re: Canadian Health Care system

Nancy N on 2/17/03 at 11:39 (109467)


I had a feeling it had been discussed before but I couldn't remember what everyone said :) And since it's in the news, I thought it might be worth bringing it up again.

It sounds to me like your system makes a lot of sense. Everyone has to make some concessions if everyone is going to be covered--and if it's not coming directly out of your pocket, the concessions should be a little easier to take. Especially if they're done in a triage system as you describe. The more urgent cases should certainly be taken care of first.

My school just changed insurance companies as of January 1, so once again I am faced with figuring out what's covered, what's not, where I can go for certain things like X-rays, what my primary doc (who is also a sports med specialist) is allowed to do for me in the PC role but not allowed to do because he's not with my plan as a specialist, etc. It's a nightmare. And now he has to make phone calls and fill out paperwork for me to get certain prescription meds, like Celebrex. God help us all. And I'm lucky enough to have insurance...

Re: Canadian Health Care system

wendyn on 2/17/03 at 11:56 (109474)

Nancy - those good topics just keep coming up!!

Just fyi - we pay provincial premiums for our health care - somewhere around 1,000 a year for a family (I believe that's with employer paying a portion too)...I think the actual cost is more if your employer isn't paying a portion.

This does not cover things like prescription drugs, physio, dental, eye care, glasses, orthotics, orthodontics etc.

For that (well - a portion of the costs) - we have a work health care plan - about $700 per year for our family. Some employers have the extra health care package - some don't. If you don't have it - you pay out of pocket for all of those things.

My son needed emergency surgery when he was around 13. I took him from the doctors office to the childrens hospital at 2 in the afternoon(with a note from the doctor) and I was admitted with him in less than 5 minutes. The pediatric urologist was in to see him within an hour or so (he had been seen by another doctor first) and he had surgery at 5:00.

A week before, I waited for about 4 hours in the waiting room when my other son needed stiches. So - for me - the triage system seems pretty fair. If you can wait - you probably will.

Then again, there was a time when we waited with a friend for close to 10 hours in emerg...but that was certainly the weird exception - not the rule.

Re: Canadian Health Care system

Nancy N on 2/17/03 at 13:49 (109497)

Hmm. I've read some of the article in the New York Times and they paint it like people are waiting for all sorts of vital procedures. You might want to take a look and see what you think--it's at http://nytimes.com/2003/02/13/international/americas/13CANA.html

Your experience certainly sounds better than what they're describing.

Re: Canadian Health Care system

BGCPed on 2/17/03 at 15:46 (109512)

The Canadian system has some good and bad points. One thing I find odd is that some Canadians I know will speak as though they have free health care. It is not free, they have a rather harsh tax system.
You have 2 dinners and a few drinks and a $60 meal has about $7 in pst, gst and one I have not seen was a liquor tax.

I was at a wedding in Canada last summer and spoke to a gentleman that had a quad bypass. He was only about 47 y/o but was overweight and lead a rough life. He went in sick and they sent him home to pop nitro pills when he felt weak. They told him to stay in bed or couch and booked him for about 2-3 weeks out.

I am not picking on Can system but if that was the states and you went into the e.r. with those complaints you would be on a cart before you could sit down and opened up the next day if indicated. I know there are bad stories in both systems but it aint free. Canadians pay a great deal for coverage its justhi-jacked off the top so people are more inclined to allow it.

If the Can government changed it and said each taxpayer will write a monthly check for $300 to get free health care things would be different

Re: Canadian Health Care system

wendyn on 2/17/03 at 15:46 (109513)

Nancy - any chance you could cut and paste? (looks like you need a member sign on to access the article).

Re: Canadian Health Care system

Nancy N on 2/17/03 at 15:58 (109517)


It's very long--2 pages online--so I'm not sure if Scott would appreciate me posting it. I'm also not sure what the copyright regulations are. The sign-up is free and they never sell your address. I can also mail it to you full-text from their site, but then you're the only one who'll be able to read it. I think I'll do that, though. Look for it in your mailbox.

Re: Canadian Health Care system

wendyn on 2/17/03 at 16:00 (109518)

BGCPed - I don't think your typical educated Canadian believes that our health care is free. It's far from free - we pay premiums (see the above posts)- plus heavily in taxes.

The idea that it's free (and all encompassing) seems to be more of an incorrect American notion. Many Americans I've talked to think that it pays for dentists, prescriptions etc.

We have a 7% federal tax on goods and services (non essential) - the province I live in does not have a provincial sales tax (no pst).

We also pay a tax on liquor, cigarettes, and gas.

We pay A LOT in income and other taxes.

Hubby's friend had a heart attack on the the 31st of January. They ran some tests, stablized him, and did a bypass (4 or 5) on the 6th of February.

I'm sure there are people waiting for procedures - but I think how bad the wait is depends on many other factors too (how sick you are, where you live, etc).

The more they try to privatize health care here - the more upset most (not all) people become. On the other hand - Americans tend to get upset with the idea of public health care. There's good and bad in each system - but we each seem much happier with what we already have!!

Julie - you need to weigh in on this with the British experience.

Re: Canadian Health Care system

BGCPed on 2/17/03 at 16:08 (109522)

I love Canada, I just feel bad whenever I see people getting taxed up the hooie. I think if you guys got rid of Cretien (sp) you would be better off. He seems like a Socialist that cares mostly for his native Quebec and that region.

Re: British Health Care system

Julie on 2/17/03 at 17:13 (109539)

Hi Wendy

Too late now, bedtime and I'm tired. Tomorrow, maybe?

:) Goodnight all!

Re: Canadian Health Care system

wendyn on 2/17/03 at 20:38 (109576)

If it were up to me (and most other Western Canadians) Chretien wouldn't be there....he's set to retire next year - so here's hoping!

On another subject - it looks like I'm going to Vegas at the end of May (a girls weekend) - never been there.

This is always interesting because of my issues with flying....but it sounds like fun!