The Common Good

A Canadian Who Loves Her Health-Care System

This morning a Canadian woman wrote such an interesting comment on an old post of mine, "Rationing is not a four-letter word," that I want to share it with you. I don't know the author, her full name (though she tells me her first name is LaVonne, so she's obviously a great person), or her contact information, so I can't give her full credit. But thanks, LaVonne-in-Canada: I learned a lot from you.

Here's what she wrote about how Canadian health care works for her. I've added a few comments in italics, in case you want to compare the situation of LaVonne-in-Canada with that of LaVonne-in-the-United-States.

As a Canadian, I can't understand why a medicare plan such as we have is not feasible in the USA.

As a a retired person, I pay $65/mo. When I was working, it was less — employer paid a touch more than half. 

[As an American retired person, this year I paid $265.85/mo — that would be $104.90 for Medicare Part B (medical insurance), $44.10 for Medicare Part D (prescription insurance), and $116.85 for Medigap Plan G (to cover Medicare's very high co-pays). When my husband was employed, my insurance cost was half that amount because his employer paid about 3/4 of the total cost — but three months ago, the employee's cost for that policy at least doubled.]

Since 2008 I have had two major operations which didn't cost me anything except $35 per day for a private room in the hospital (my choice ... a 4-bed ward would have been free). 

[In 2011, before going on Medicare, I had a major operation, which cost me $2,111.35, which seemed like a real bargain since the hospital bill was originally $172,833.97. Insurance agreed to pay $116,748.28. Earlier this year — again, before going on Medicare — I had an outpatient procedure that cost me nothing, even though the hospital bill was originally $47,914.28. Insurance agreed to pay $15,763.77. It's a strange way of doing business.]

Moreover, no charge to Canadians for doctor's office visits. We don't have to delay need for care, might save worsening condition. 

[Because I bought a Medigap policy (Plan G), I first pay a $147 yearly deductible, after which I am not charged for doctor's office visits. Under our former Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, I was charged $20 to see my primary care provider and $40 to see a specialist.]

We have a population of less than 35 million. Our population can support a universal healthcare plan. The USA has more than 10 times the population of Canada. Surely 350 million people can support a universal health care plan successfully - many more people to pay into it, and as well, more healthy employed people than sick people by far to support the plan, I should think.

By the way, my $65/mo covers 60% of my dental care, too, however this is an option my former employee-plan (union job) allowed me to take. If I'd wanted to pay in more, I could have opted for 80% dental coverage, or 100%. Medicare without the dental would cost $57/mo.(rather than $65).

[Alas, my $265.85 includes no dental coverage. And even though I pay for prescription insurance, I also pay out-of-pocket for prescriptions: in my case another $57/mo as long as I don't need anything next year that I'm not already taking.]

Do you think that if your legislators could corral Big Pharma and Big Insurance Co., that maybe your country could get something even better going? The current Obamacare is not the whole way your president wanted to go (he wanted something more along the lines of the Canadian plan) but he was hog tied, he had to compromise.

We are not socialists in Canada. We have a capitalist system, too. However, we don't fret at the thought of socially subsidized provision for people's health, and I think as a consequence we might have a healthier population. The Native Indian people in Canada have totally free healthcare — they don't have to pay any monthly premiums at all.

Now if you happen to think that the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare, in spite of what Jimmy Kimmel's interviewees believed) will give us a Canadian system, please, please, please read"Obamacare vs. Canada: Five key differences." The two systems are very, very different — and the differences help to explain why I pay hundreds of dollars more a month than LaVonne-across-the-border, and get significantly less.

And if you're itching to point out that Canadians have to wait longer than Americans for health care, or that Canadians stream over the border to American hospitals, or that Canadian seniors can't get hip replacements, please, please, please read "5 Myths About Canada's Health Care System" and learn what is really happening across our northern border. It's probably not what you think. It's certainly not what the U.S. anti-health-care lobby wants you to think.

These are short articles. You have time.

The truth is, as LaVonne-in-Canada noted, the Affordable Care Act is not exactly what President Obama wanted. He had to compromise, and as a result, Obamacare is not nearly as effective as Canadian health care — though it's somewhat better than what we had before. And Canadian health-care benefits aren't as amazingly good as, say, French or Swiss benefits (which still cost considerably less than ours, by the way), though if our aim is to keep costs as low as possible while still insuring everybody, we still might choose to imitate Canada rather than some of the more generous countries.

But until the American people come to realize that our current mishmash of a system is costing them a lot more than a more centralized system could — and until our lawmakers find the courage "to grapple in a systematic fashion with the overall inefficiencies in health care delivery and financing, the administrative burden of multiple payers, providers, and plans, and the cost pressures of defensive medicine," as the "Obamacare vs. Canada" article suggests — we will keep on paying more, getting less, and regularly shutting down the U.S. government and (who knows?) maybe crashing the entire world's economy.

LaVonne Neff is an amateur theologian and cook; lover of language and travel; wife, mother, grandmother, godmother, dogmother; perpetual student, constant reader, and Christian contrarian. She blogs at Lively Dust and at The Neff Review.

Image: United States and Canadian flags,  ruskpp / Shutterstock.com

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