Canada's Not So Free Health Care
You Get What You Pay For
The other day in the process of my day job I was speaking with a US client and the subject of health care in my country, Canada, came up. He had always been under the impression that Canada had free health care. He assumed that it meant we received completely free health care at zero cost. Although I did eventually steer the conversation back to the business at hand I did shatter that fairy tale. But it did get me thinking and I realized that it is most likely many people outside Canada think that medical care is completely free. Thus I wrote this article to set the record straight.
How Free Canadian Health Care Is Supposed To Work
The basic premise of free health care is that it gets paid for by taxes. In Canada we are taxed for just about every possible thing you can think of and some of each tax is supposed to be going toward medical care. Also when every individual prepares their income taxes on an annual basis there is also a section for medical care. Historically if you made over $20,000 dollars in that year you owe a percentage of your income to the government. So already your paying for medical care without even using it unless your far below the poverty line.
Now does this process really hurt someone that makes over $100,000 a year? Probably not. But even if you set aside the astronomical ballooning cost of living in Canada it is still a issue for those making between the $20,000 - $40,000 range. Primarily due to the rising costs even these wage earners are having trouble making ends meet.
Now let's see what your paying for when you actually use it.
What Canadian Health Care Doesn't Pay For
In general Canadian health care covers the visit to the doctor, some medical procedures and transplants. It doesn't cover any of the following:
- Prescription medications of any kind.
- Ambulance rides (that's right when someone collapses and goes to the hospital expect a bill in the mail, I got one).
- Dental exams or anything associated with them (check ups, cleanings, fillings, root canals, everything else).
- Eye exams or anything associated with them (Exams used to be free, now it may cost anywhere from $90 - $150 dollars just for the exam, you pay for any treatment, glasses).
- Puffers (for asthma or any related breathing issues)
- Any equipment needed for Diabetics (Blood sugar testing machine).
The list goes on and on.
How Effective Is Canadian Health Care?
So now that we understand that the average Canadian is heavily taxed for this system and that it really only covers the visit and some procedures just how effective is it? There are many drawbacks.
- Canada has a lack of doctors because going to the United States or other countries can mean that they get paid as much as five times what they could here.
- This means that family doctors are scarce, many Canadians do not have a family doctor and when one becomes available (although the info isn't readily available when they are) there is a mad rush by the population in any area to be listed as a patient with the new doctor (if we didn't have phones and computers and had to physically go in it would be a riot as people would probably get violent just to be on the list.) Anyone without a family doctor can't make an appointment to be seen they have to go to the emergency room for any and all care.
- When you go to an emergency waiting room you will wait a long time. When I lived in a rural area where population was low I still waited an average of three hours to see a doctor. Several times attending an emergency room in a few different small to medium sized cities I waited between of 6 - 9 hours to see a doctor.
- We also need to consider that any hospital with an emergency room and doctor treating you is getting paid by the government for your visit. So numbers mean a whole lot more to them than your care. Unless you are pretty much dying when you come in the doctor in the emergency room will do everything he can to get you in and out the door as quickly as possible. The more visits he completes the more the hospital gets paid from the government and the more he gets paid. This will mean that many many doctors will never take the time needed to truly understand let alone attempt to treat your ailment.
- With the lack of doctors specialists are often only found in large cities and their schedules can be backed up for years. This means anyone not living in a major city may have to travel to get treatment and again waiting months or even years to be seen.
- If you need a transplant (heart, liver, etc.) you are put on a list due to organ availability and again surgeon availability, many people live for years and still die while waiting on that list. To put this in perspective consider that a 10-year old child could die waiting for a liver transplant while a rich 70-year old man may cross the border into the states and pay for a transplant and get the organ and surgeons service right away.
- Even with all of these issues the percentage of tax we pay that goes to medical care continues to rise year after year although constant announcements proclaim more and more cutbacks. Hospitals close, some get reduced staff, the amount of doctors, nurses, equipment lessens and we continue to pay more for less.
Why Did I Write This Article?
I've not even reached middle age yet and even at my age I have seen people in their thirties with ongoing ailments that could have been easily treated but are allowed to continue effecting them possibly causing permanent damage.
One close friend in particular hurt her knees. Both swelled up horribly and after attending the emergency room for hours she was seen by a doctor that told her to take some over the counter Ibuprofen. Which she did for a week to no effect. At that point her knees looked like swelled grape fruits she again attended the emergency room and was told to keep taking the Ibuprofen. But with that lack of care on behalf of two different doctors she finally scheduled an appointment with her family doctor and was then told her appointment is a month from now (she's what we in Canada consider to be lucky as she has a family doctor.)
So at this point she can barely walk from one room to another instead of walking to work as she normally would. She will need to call a cab everyday to get to and from work and costing her an arm and a leg (no pun intended as this issue makes me angry to no end) and hope they don't drive away before she gets out her front door. As she can barely walk she had to go to a second hand store and buy an old crutch as this wasn't even something considered or even offered by the doctors who have seen her puffed up knees. Things need to change.
Below I included a video I saw on Youtube that explains socialized medicine. Apparently Obamacare is on the path to emulate our system in Canada. I can only tell any american reading this that it is a horrible mistake. If you think it is a great idea watch the video and think about it.
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