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Canadian Mixed Views on Health Care

Canadian Patients Seek Care in the USA due to Lack of AccessI posted a blog I found about the Baby Joseph situation in Canada and have been following the comments written on it since. Some of the comments are the same-old cyber bullying I’ve been seeing any time a Canadian stands up and says “I don’t like our system.” However, a few comments were written with some actual thought behind them and I thought I’d share them since it isn’t always easy for Americans like me to hear the different Canadian view points. I know how Ralph Weber feels from his speeches and articles. I’ve watched all of Edith’s videos. And I’ve heard Dr. Kurisko warn us as a former Canadian doctor. Here are a few other points from Canadians off of the Soap Boxers Blog.

Posted By User Wuzafuzz

This site is the first time I heard anything about the Baby Joseph story so I can’t comment on that. What I can do is share the opinions of my family members who live in Canada, or moved to the U.S from Canada.

All of them despise the Canadian health care system. One of them suffers a congenital heart defect. He had to wait two years for a life saving surgery. In the meantime he circled the drain expecting to die at any moment. You see, they placed him on a waiting list behind people with lesser conditions. Triage? Nope: “we have rules.” In the meantime he endured repeated heart attacks requiring local paramedics to respond. Many of those required a life flight on a helicopter. Over the years he waited they probably spent more money on paramedics and airlifts than the surgery cost. Eventually he got his surgery and is still alive and kicking. His survival depended on luck more than doctors. At least he was lucky.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, let me share the story of two cousins. Number one lives in the U.S., number two in Canada. Within months of each other they were diagnosed with a rare bone cancer. The exact same condition for both with nearly identical prognosis. Number one was treated by doctors in Los Angeles. There were some scary times but he is doing great now. He has been in full remission for several years and expects many more years of life. Number two visited doctors in Canada. He didn’t survive more than a few months.

The Canadian health care system SUCKS. The Canadians I know despise it. The few that accept it probably have no idea what miracles routinely worked by U.S. doctors. There is much to complain about with some of our insurance plans and medical costs. But at least we can hope for good care. Canadians’ only hope is to make a run across the border..

Posted by User

Hiya folks! I’m the other 40Tech meat and also happen to be a Canadian, and I have to say, while the Canadian health care system isn’t perfect, I wouldn’t give it up in favour of the US system. The Swiss system, maybe… but nothing else. I’m not just your average Canadian, either — not in this situation — my wife actually works in health care. In the emergency room, no less. I had her read through the article and comments and she came close to mild apoplexy at least twice.

I’ll try to address things in some semblance of order:

– On the Baby Joseph thing, I’m only able to go on what was written here, and so won’t talk in depth about that. My wife informs me, though, that a trache surgery is only the tip of the iceberg (yeah, yeah…. Canadian, iceberg. Haha.). What about all of the care afterward? Is that going to be done in their home? Without 24hr health service? Probably not. I can understand that parents would do anything to be with their child just a little while longer. I have a 2 year old that I would do anything for, and I can’t imagine what those poor people were going through. However, the quality of life for that child over those -possible- six months would not be very good. It could even be considered cruel. And from a government finance perspective, they may feel it is irresponsible to spend the taxpayers’ dollars in this way.

Again… I am only speaking based on what was written here.

– Rural hospitals suck everywhere. I grew up in a town of 1400 people. The hospital was like a large clinic with overnight beds. It’s the same in the backwoods of the US, I’m sure. I’ve seen Doc Hollywood…

– The plain fact of the matter is, in Canada, we have public health care for every citizen. If I need a CT scan — hell, if a homeless person needs a CT scan — there is no bill in the mail after the fact. If I break my arm, I get a cast, even if I’m broke. Excuse the puns… My friend — an American — broke his arm, got screwed over by his insurance company (or made a mistake and screwed himself, depending on if you ask him or the company), and ended up being hounded for months by bill collectors. That never would have happened here.

I will say, however, that US doctors are often better equipped to deal with extreme healthcare situations. Much of this is due to money. In Canada, doctors — at least in comparison to US doctors — get paid sweet diddly. The crazy amounts of money US doctors can command comes with a very high level of expectation and accountability, especially in the US’ litigation-happy culture. That is not to say that Canadian doctors are backwards idiots, though. There are good and bad doctors everywhere. No matter where you go people get misdiagnosed. At least here, you are getting misdiagnosed for free. We do like the idea of being able to go down south to get “superdoctor” help if we need it — and can afford it — though.

That said, we don’t want the US style of healthcare as much as you appear to not want ours. I think it falls under the purview of liking what you’re used to. I don’t know whether the changes to the US system will be good or bad in the end, but I support the concept of poor people being able to get help when they need it, and not having to go bankrupt or worse as a result.

Oh, and on a complete side-note: Fox News is an absolute insane crock of drivel. Yes, I said drivel. Harsh words have been spoken.

My Reply:

Hi Bobby,

I think the problem here isn’t with the Canadian emergency room, but with getting access to specialty care. I work with several Canadians who now live in the USA, including a few doctors, and they all moved here because of the Canadian health care system, but also all agree the problem is not with the emergency rooms (other than the looooong waits some of them have).

I’ve heard a lot of people share Wuzafuzz’s opinion that the chances of dying due to lack of care in Canada are higher because once your General Practitioner (Primary Care Provider, as we call them in the US) says “yes, you need to see a specialist,” the wait can be more than a year. That’s a year of pain, worry, and possibly death from not catching something soon enough to fix it.

Here is a Canadian’s view on the subject after a breast lump was found and she had to wait:

I do agree with you that the poor need care. I absolutely think we need a better system for the poor and elderly in the US, but I don’t think the current plan to move towards the Canadian system is the right answer, either. I also support, as you said, the ability to get care when we need it. I don’t think enough Canadians get care when they need it (again, not including ER) because of lack of access and I work for a company trying to show that in the US access is readily available and the prices (when you get away from insurance company games) are really not anywhere near as bad as you might think. We just lack the transparency here in the USA for anyone to know that.

3 responses

Author: Lee Kurisko
I am the doctor that squeaky alluded to in his blog that commented on rationing of Canadian health care. A point that people commonly overlook in this debate is that most health care dollars should not be controlled by government or insurance companies. It should be controlled by YOU just as you control the expenditure of dollars in every other area in your life (except of course public education and other government programs but that is for another time). The tracheostomy for Baby Joseph is a fairly inexpensive procedure. In a true free market, it would probably be even cheaper. At Medibid, we are getting MRI scans for people for a little over 300 dollars whereas in the third party pay system, hospitals are charging insurance companies over 2000 dollars. The point is that markets can work to drop cost if you allow them to do so. This does not negate the proper role of insurance which is to compensate for large unexpected financial losses. You want insurance if your ho
use is burglarized or burns down; not for floor wax and kitchen renovations. Insurance that covered such things would be incredibly expensive. And yet, this is the situation in American health care with first dollar or near first dollar coverage with insurance. Obamacare will exacerbate this problem, not solve it. The correct question should not be “Do we want American or Canadian health care” because both are highly flawed. The most basic question should be, “Do we want third parties controlling our money or do we want to control it ourselves.” Both the American and Canadian systems are forms of socialism where the majority of the control is removed from the individual.

Oh Mr. Kurisko, you hit the nail directly on the head!! I live in Ottawa, Ontario. I have a decent family doctor but I don’t realize why it takes forever to get simple procedures done AND why in so many jurisdictions, patients die waiting for diagnosis and treatments. It’s a shame.

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