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July 6, 2009

Is Universal Health Care a good thing?

Here in Canada we like to brag about our health care system, and we seem to get a lot of praise from around the world as well. The movie Sicko makes it look like the perfect system... completely free for all necessary medical procedures.

What stories like this don't get into are the politics behind the health care system. Here in Ontario, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) will only reimburse doctors for tests they (OHIP) deem relevant to the symptoms. This means that many ailments that are less common, or are masked behind conflicting/confusing symptoms may not be caught in time, or at all.

Additionally, every Canadian (certainly all of those I speak to) have a story of an incredulous wait time for a given procedure. Thankfully, I haven't experienced any serious illnesses in my family requiring immediate care, but I have heard the stories from close friends.

A recent story on CNN highlights, for the first time that I've seen, the negative side of Universal Health Care. There's a bit of he said, she said in this story, but lets just say, the numbers quoted didn't shock me. And that is sad.

My wife has been treated twice in foreign countries where health care isn't free, neither was a serious matter, and required only an exam and minor prescription:

The first was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and we expected a scary third world hospital. What we received was top-notch health care in a facility that looked more like a high end hotel than a hospital. 15 minute wait, 30 minute exam, 5 minute discharge. Total cost, CDN$183. Yes, this is a lot of money for the locals and it was a private hospital. Still... $183!!!

The second was in South Carolina, and we expected a bill of several hundred, but no... US$200. Total time was about 1.5 hours.

In both of these cases, the cost in Ontario for similar treatment would be $0. And that's great. However, I can assure you the wait time would be significantly more... in the area of 8-12 hours per visit. Is this reasonable? In my opinion, no... not as a normally expected wait time. Holidays, weather and major incidents (diseases, major accidents) will always mess up an ER schedule. But the norm??

In Ontario I have never been in and out of ER in less than 8 hours. Never.


Anonymous said...

There may not be any health care system that is perfect but I would much rather have one that takes care of the basic needs of ALL it's citizens and does not cultivate a culture where people think it is okay to come to work when they are sick, then to continue on with the one the US has. Millions with no insurance at all. People with treatable diseases who think they have no recourse. Public Health hospitals closing down for lack of funding and fat cat insurance companies who complain about having to cover people with pre-existing conditions, when they are raking in the billions. That is truly what is criminal and morally shameful - that our politicians put big business before the populace.

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