We knew coming out of the US election in November that Barack Obama would be making a push for a new healthcare system down south, something akin to Canada’s healthcare system (just don’t call it socialized medicine).
As soon as that push started, we in Canada suddenly started hearing all these arguments against our system from right-wing Americans, left-wing Americans and Canadians themselves. I’ve heard a lot of these stories about the horrible ways socialized medicine has cost Canadians from people arguing that the current American system is better, and while I have never experience healthcare through the American system, I have been dealing with Canadian healthcare for 28-plus years and I am very confused by some of the things I am hearing about how things work up here.
Number one, which I heard for the very first time last week, is that Canadians can’t choose their own doctor. Now, I’ve heard before that when you have insurance through an HMO in the US, you get a list of approved doctors that work with that HMO. I have never heard of anything like this in Canada, anywhere -unless you’re talking about going to a walk-in clinic.
When I was born, my mother chose our pediatrician and then, when I was about 8 or 9 I started going to see her doctor, who I still see now. I know that there are many cities and towns across Canada that are facing doctor shortages, and I know in a lot of those places you take what you can get in terms of a personal physician, but no where in our system does it state that you have to use a certain doctor or not get healthcare at all.
The other big argument against a Canadian-style healthcare system is waiting lists. In my life I have had a CAT scan, multiple x-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests, and other tests, and I’ve been sent to see specialists (an allergy specialist, endocrinologist to name but two) none of which I have had to wait long for (not any longer than a couple of weeks). I know that there can be a wait for some treatments, but my understanding is that if someone is in any kind of serious danger or pain, they move to the top of the list.
I am also very happy to have my midwife covered by my provincial health insurance, and when I give birth with my midwife in the hospital, I will not be thinking about hospital bills because it will all be taken care of through taxes.
I have known at least one person who had a disease, something pretty bad, that we didn’t have treatment for here – and her doctor sent her to Philadelphia to get the treatment, which Ontario health insurance still paid for.
Our system certainly does have its problems, and that is a debate of our own that we have to have in the not-too-distant future. People are pushing for prescription plans to help with high drug costs, and in Ontario a few years ago eye care was de-listed, which makes life very difficult for those of us who wear glasses. (Luckily I now have dental, prescription and eye care coverage through work. Living without coverage was very difficult). I think there should be insurance for these types of needs for people who don’t have insurance through their jobs, but the basic skeleton is there and it works.