11 September 2009

On Canadian Health Care

I just wanted to make a short post to address some things I have been reading about the Canadian Health Care, or more specifically, the Ontario Health care system, which I have been reading about in American blogs. The blogs and writers in their claims seem to be making two separate mistakes: 1. They claim the Canadian system is ideal. 2. They claim it is horrible in all ways. My position: It has strengths and weaknesses.

Claim: It is a national system.

Yes and no. Health care is indeed across the country, but it is run by the provinces. Fortunately, as mandated by the federal government, it is transferable, which means if I live in Ontario and get sick in Saskatchewan, I will still receive help.

Claim: Canadians have long waiting lists to see a doctor.

I can only speak from experience. I have never had that problem, at least not in seeing an ordinary doctor. Specialists are a little different, and they usually take their cases on a priority basis. My mother, for instance, went to see her doctor about a pain in her stomach and other problems she was having about three years ago. The doctor sent her to a specialist, who saw her that day, discovered her problem was a large tumour in her colon which needed an emergency operation. The tumour was removed that day, no waiting time.

That being said, I live in Toronto, where there are many doctors. Canadians do have a problem with rural areas experiencing a shortage of doctors, which I believe is also common in the States. Rural dwellers must also travel longer distances to see specialists when necessary. The government is trying to come up with incentives to relieve that problem, but it seems to be chronic.

Claim: The system is free.

Um, no. Michael More can say this as often as he likes, but repetition will not make it less false. My paycheque has a deduction labelled OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) every time. Free health care is up there with the free lunch: there ain't no such animal.

Claim: If the Canadian system is so good, why are so many Canadian crossing the border seeking American health care?

Good question. The main reason for this stems from waiting lists, which I earlier said aren't a problem. I retract a bit: There are some waiting lists to get access to some equipment and treatments. MRI scanners were one reason for Canadians crossing into Buffalo and other places. The system up here is chronically strapped for cash, and there are some things we don't have enough of. Some medical businesses in the States have seen this as an opportunity and have set up special clinics just across the border to attract the Canadians who have the money to come across and pay for a scan.

Also, Americans sometimes approve of new treatments before the Canadian medical association does, and Canadians will sometimes go seeking this treatment in hopes of a cure. This has worked in some cases, backfired in others, as approval of some treatments have been rescinded.

Claim: (related to the above): if the Canadian system is so good, why aren't Americans crossing the border to get Canadian treatments?

Americans coming here would get the same treatments they get in the States: namely, they or their insurance company would have to pay for it, as they are not insured up here. There is usually no benefit in them coming to Canada for treatment in that respect.

Having said that, when there is a benefit, the Americans do cross the border, often in droves, to get some treatment up here. For example, a few years ago Ontario was offering cheap flu shots, even for American tourists. Result: Thousands of Americans crossing the border for the cheap shot. Not as sexy as an MRI scan, but still a crossing of the border for treatment.

There you have my $.02. Our system is neither perfect nor horrible. Whether or not the Americans should follow our lead I can't say. That's for them to decide, and I neither encourage nor dissuade them from doing so. Just thought I'd throw a little information out there.

No comments: