One of the things I get asked about a lot as a Canadian living in the US is universal healthcare. I'm no expert, but I have received care from both systems so I do have a few opinions.
As I understand it, the US spends an insane amount of money on healthcare. I remember reading that it is completely disproportionate to other developed nations. The other thing I know to be true, there is an incredibly large number of people in this country who have no coverage. The system is deeply flawed. The Canadian system is not perfect, but, as I see it, it's flaws are not as deadly.
These facts alone indicate to me that universal healthcare is much needed in the US. However, I don't really see how such a thing could be implemented. First of all, the wait. Americans will not tolerate waiting for anything (a generalization, but I think lots of Americans would agree with me). It is not in the psyche here to tolerate or wait for anything. Everyone's mission is to get what they want and get it now.
The other challenge of introducing universal healthcare would be a downgrade of quality of care. I would not suggest that people will be left to die in the hallway on a gurney - I just mean that the "fanciness" of hospitals and specializations would suffer.
For those of you in Canada, let me explain what my birthing suite looked like here in the US. It was huge - like a classroom size. It had hardwood floors, it had a soft couch for Craig, it was decorated tastefully. It was much nicer than some hotel rooms I've stayed in.
I've never seen a birthing suite in Canada, but I think I can safely say it is not referred to as "a birthing suite". Universal healthcare would mean that hospitals become "institutions" instead of "businesses" and that would mean the nicely painted walls would likely become a thing of the past. Not sure Americans would tolerate such a step backward.
When I'm talking to Americans about some of the differences, I marvel that I had never written a check for healthcare in my life before 2000. I explain how safe it feels in Canada knowing that you will always receive the care you need.
There is no "what if I lose my coverage" looming over your head in Canada- and that looms large for most of us I think. I never had to wonder "is this procedure covered by my policy?" once in Canada. I wonder that all the time now and I dread the nightmare of having anything beyond the routine done here in the US.
I know Canadians complain about wait times. Americans hear that and assume that means certain death for them. From what I gather, Canadians are not denied life saving care due to lack of resources. I hear that elective procedures are delayed months and months. You may not get your knee replaced next week.
I believe the Obama is proposing that Americans be given the option to take some sort of universal coverage or opt out and keep their existing coverage and keep paying for it directly. Those Americans with the money could conceivably be unaffected. But, I don't think they'll appreciate the millions of newly covered clogging their system. I don't think they'll like the ugly walls. I certainly don't think they'll like paying taxes so all those other people can benefit. That is not the American way.