Watching the news this week, I was wondering when you’d ask me this exact question. With all this healthcare controversy going on, it was impossible for me not to think of what would have happened to me if I’d been a U.S. citizen with health challenges instead of being born as a Canadian. And the end result was not a pretty picture. I would have likely exhausted all personal funds and still be in debt for millions more. That big medical bill is something that average Canadians will never have to fear in real life.
For me to truly explain the Canadian healthcare system, I need to start from the very beginning. The first government to enact Medicare was Premiere of Saskatchewan, Tommy Douglas and his New Democratic Party in 1947. Other provinces quickly followed, and, within a few years, Medicare existed all across Canada. This is far from what we have today. Every few years, governments, whether provincial or federal, have continued to update our healthcare system to keep pace with our modern society. They didn’t toss the old healthcare act out the window and reinvent healthcare all over again. No, they tweaked it, tuned it, balanced budgets, etc.
Obamacare or any other healthcare will fail by design. But it’s up to the next government office to take the torch and continue to tune and tweak it — not reinvent it. The Democrats did not build it just so egos can be satisfied. Things change, people change, and so does healthcare have to change. Maybe Obama’s biggest mistake was using his name in Obamacare. Now Donald wants his Trumpcare.
Now if Canadian healthcare sounds like it’s flawless to some, it’s not. But it’s certainly far from “catastrophic,” as Trump called it back in October of 2016, which by the way, most Canadians thought was hilariously ignorant. There are flaws in any system. Here in Canada, it’s longer wait times for specialists and surgeons, and sometimes it’s a wait for an available operating room or hospital bed. But, if you get sick to the point of it being life threatening, they still make it happen right now. The reason we wait for surgeons and specialists are because of shortages. Most will head south of the border as their earning potential in the U.S. is far, far greater than if they practiced in Canada. Just the 30+ percent exchange from CDN to USD is attractive enough for doctors and surgeons to move south, never mind the warmer climate. With the high cost of student loans, who can blame a young doctor wanting to pay off that monstrous loan years sooner than he could by practicing in Canada?
I’ve spent a few days in a bed in a hospital hallway before. That problem was recognized, and a huge extension to that hospital was paid for, built, and modernized within the next couple of years. I went home a few days later to heal, without a bill, which would have likely been six figures in a U.S. hospital.
Where I live in British Columbia, we’re the only province that pays premiums at the moment, but there are no deductibles, either. These premiums are set by the government and are affordable at $75 per month for one person to $144 per month for a family of three or more. Which is clearly still affordable to anyone in the province.
Other provinces don’t currently charge premiums. Canadians do pay for medications and ambulance services, but very often those are covered by your employee extended healthcare insurance. It’s very easy and simple for corporations or even individuals to find added extended health insurance for added coverage when most of the big costs are already covered by the government.
I believe the biggest hurdle the U.S. faces is that your hospitals are privately owned. They’re not owned privately because the owners have big hearts; they own the hospital to make a profit on people being ill. There is just so much wrong with that it makes my skin crawl. Going in to a hospital for a saline IV in the U.S. can cost a patient more than $1,000, when some other countries will bill out only $5 for the saline because they’re not looking to profit from a patient. Costs for the same basic services in the U.S. vary so wildly from state to state and from hospital to hospital, the government has to regulate these costs before any healthcare act has even a remote chance to be successful.
The U.S. needs to accept that there will be some left out in the cold no matter what, since everyone’s healthcare needs are different. There is not going to be some holy-savior plan that will magically make everyone happy. Here in Canada, it’s those who need some rare treatment or experimental procedure, and the procedure is done outside Canada. In those cases, the funds are not covered by insurance, but they’re usually publicly fundraised, or they find help from nonprofits and charities.
I truly don’t think there is an answer to the U.S. healthcare issue without regulating billing or even buying back hospitals from private owners at fair market value. Healthcare is about survival, not about the almighty dollar. This is not the only area that needs a total revamping, either. The ability to buy someone’s healthcare debt at a discounted rate in the U.S. is even worse, and that needs to stop immediately. Until this way of thinking changes in the U.S., people will continue to die and to work their entire lives to pay their health bills to end up penniless in the end while making others filthy rich.
What is going on now in the U.S. is truly “catastrophic.” Now I question whether Trump knows the meaning of the word, as Canadians don’t agree that it describes our healthcare system at all. This all does affect us, too. Health insurance — with my health background — for me to travel to the U.S. to see you is ridiculously expensive, and many companies would not even insure me to travel within the United States. Since we share one of the world’s longest borders between our countries, it’s definitely preventing travel between us and ultimately bridges us further apart than ever as we age. This makes me sad, Grace.