Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Universal Healthcare

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.


DlCerney said...

Hi Catherine!

I found you! It's Dawna Cerney. It's been a long time. I actually created a blog so I can make contact. I'd love to catch up - my new email is - or Drop me a line and we can chat.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason for universal healthcare in America. The system is flawed because bad people have abused the system and not been held accountable for it. All that is needed is an overhaul of medicare and medicaid. Clean up the fraud and abuse. Those two agencies exist for people who can not afford insurance either on their own or with the job. Universal healthcare would be a huge step back for our country and totally unacceptable.

Catherine said...

Dawna - so nice to hear from you and we will definitely have to catch up via email! Are you on facebook too?

Anonymous - I hear you about the abuse and fraud. I think both systems have challenges. Do you mean the users are abusing the system or are docs/specialists and insurance companies committing the abuse? In the Cdn system, there are less opportunities for abuse because payments never involve the users.

Catherine said...
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Maria said...

One of the articles I picked up today. A more sane report about Canadian healthcare than the usual bashing that has clutter the airways for the past month. I am really quite ashamed of how the news media is portraying us as such a uncivilized society. I know better..........not to minimize the groups and individuals who would like to never see any progress in this country, but there are plenty of us who are willing to listen and willing to consider other options.

Univeral care sure does sound like the right thing to do at times, but let's face it, you just can't turn the switch off from the way the system has always operated in this country. But, no doubt indeed, some reform is needed.

I am one of those people with a pre-existing condition. Now, if I switch jobs to another company with a health plan, most likely this will not be an issue, but if I loose my job and have to buy my own insurance - guess what - I will have to wait 1 to 2 years before it is covered - and there is still no guarantee I would get coverage. This is one of the proposals on the table in DC - to make this a non-issue. I am in favor of that.

All the talk about how we don't want the government dictating our care. Get real. The insurance administrators are all over that already. They decide what is covered and how much they are willing shell out to the doctors and hospitals. Of course, some plans are great and some are not. And almost all plans have a max coverage in your lifetime. Let's just day you have a serious cancer condition, you may very well use that up. And then what? After you have gone through any savings, sell your assets, if you are not cured, you may never get the treatment to be cured. This is another proposal on the table in DC - no more max limits.

I suppose I could keep on writing, but my lunch hour is up. Maybe I will weigh in again.

Catherine said...

Thanks for your thoughtful consideration., Maria. I agree - "Canadianizing" the system would be fruitless and if the existing system is worked on and improved that would be success!