Saturday, November 24, 2007

Problems with Canadian Health Care

Pajamas Media reported Once a proud supporter of Canada’s social safety net, Heather Cook now wouldn’t mind seeing a little more free-market competition in her country. Maybe then she wouldn’t have to wait over a year to take her son to the doctor’s office.
You get what you pay for. And you wait for what you don't pay for. And in Canada, you can't even pay for it and get it when you need it.
Canadians are proud of their social safety net. Growing up in the True North, Strong and Free, I was never afraid of not being able to afford to go to the doctor and I knew that there were programs out there that magically took care of the sick and poor. Though I’ve never had to take social assistance, family members of mine have. But it wasn’t until I started paying taxes that I started to hold the system to higher expectations. And it wasn’t until I started getting some real world experience that I realized that in some ways the system is very broken.

If US health care is broken due to its inaccessibility, Canadian health care is broken because it’s too accessible. Imagine that US health care has ten doors with different admission costs. The line up for the ‘free’ door is long, but there’s still a steady stream at the other end where the entry is so expensive that there’s a sign overhead reading “if you have to ask - you can’t afford it”.
But there are also those other eight doors in the middle.
In Canada, there’s one door. And, lucky you, there’s no admission. Well, unless you count the provincial health care fees you have to pay if you make more than the accepted poverty level. And those pesky taxes.
We have the taxes too, but we can go to the doctor when we are sick. It just is not free.
Health care costs make up, on average, 40 percent of a province’s budget. About 73 percent of all health care is paid for by public funding (taxes), while the rest is paid for with supplementary insurance packages (paid for by the individual) and employer-based programs, or direct from the consumer’s pocket. But that one door? It has a heck of a lineup. Across Canada the words “wait times” are buzz words. They show up in campaign promises, opposition criticism and anywhere you find sick people. Provinces have developed “wait time registries.” What’s the median time for an MRI in Alberta? Almost 9 weeks. And for about 360 of the 18,839 people served in a 90 day period, their wait was up to a year.
I was in the hospital, and about to be discharged, and something came up the doctor wanted an MRI on. The wait for the hospital MRI was going to be several hours so I asked him to just discharge me, and I would get one on an outpatient basis. I called, and got an appointment for one the next day. I arrived, and did not even have to wait. They gave me the films and I hand carried them to the doctor.
Granted, if you arrive in the ER in desperate and dire need of an MRI, you are rushed to the front of the line. The rest just wait. Not knowing, wondering, waiting.

1 comment:

Serenity Now! said...

Thanks for linking Don. You may also be interested in this article:

http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/11/25/news/local/news05.txt

Heather Cook