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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

How Canadians View Their Health Insurance

by capper

With the ongoing debate about health insurance, there has been a lot of sniping and smug dismissals of other countries' insurance models, especially Canada's. But instead of listening to the fear mongerers, how about someone who has actually experienced it? The following is a letter to the editor of the Waupaca County Post, dated August 30, 2007 (sorry, small paper with no website), verbatim:

How Canadians view their health insurance

To the Editor:

I find it both sad and frustrating that so many good people buy the disinformation spread about universal health insurance by political and corporate interests, without questioning either the source or the logic. As a Canadian resident for 26 years, during the period when Canada's national health insurance program evolved, I have to respond to "Canadians prefer U.S. health care."

First, reputable scholarly (not political) surveys show repeatedly that the vast majority of Canadians are very happy with their health care. On a personal note, my Canadian son, his family and extended in-law family, my friends, former neighbors and former colleagues (a rather wide circle) all value their health care system and are extremely glad it is not like ours! Here people can lose their insurance when they lose a job, or when they develop a chronic illness. Here millions are without health insurance; here a person without insurance is turned away by physicians and clinics; and here good, hardworking people forego life-saving treatment or are bankrupted by medical costs.

Second and incidentally, when travel agents urge special health insurance policies for U.S. travelers abroad, it is because U.S. insurance policies normally do not cover out-of-country expenses. It has nothing to do with the level of care.

Third, Canadians purchase health insurance supplements to get private rooms and such perks. here, seniors purchase "medigap" policies, and insured workers purchase supplements-because the basic insurance is just that: basic.

Fourth, an e-mail testimonial is neither verifiable nor representative. We all know someone who has had a negative experience with Waupaca's hospital. Does that mean we are wrong to think we get excellent care here? Or that all U.S. hospital treatment is bad? We know better.

Fifth, the writer and politicians opposed to universal health insurance repeatedly refer to "the government" providing health care, or they refer to universal coverage as "socialized medicine." Neither is true and both are scare tactics. Neither in Canada nor in the any proposal for universal coverage here (that I know of) is the government the health care provider or the health care decision maker. Currently, however, U.S. insurance company employees with no medical training at all are frequently making health care decisions. Not so in Canada.

We do have excellent medical providers here, and so does Canada. Like here, Canadians have their own physicians, by their own choice, or they can use clinics or groups. They have the whole gamut of excellent specialists, like here. They have excellent nursing staff, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, home care visiting nurses, emergency room sand urgent care physicians. Canadians have regular check-ups, they see their physicians by appointment and they get preventive care. You would find their care just like ours-except that it's available to everyone, bills get paid and no one goes bankrupt because of it.

It's the insurance that is different, not the medical care. We Americans pay more, but fewer of us get it.

Georgia Calvo

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