One of the comments I hear over and over when people talk about President Obama’s proposed health care plan is “Just look at the mess they have in Canada with government run health care!”

Okay, let’s set all of the rhetoric aside and take a look. I have quite a few Canadians who subscribe to the Gypsy Journal RV newspaper I publish, so I e-mailed several of them to get their feedback on the Canadian health care system that so many people seem to think is so bad. I also asked several Canadians we met at two RV rallies what they thought about the care they receive. After all, who better to tell us about it than those who have to live with it?

Guess what? Out of the dozen or so responses I got, all but one Canadian loves their health care system! That woman’s reply was that she doesn’t like to have to return to Canada for a certain amount of time every year to remain enrolled.

One lady told me “Yes, we have some red tape to get through, but my sister is married to an American and lives in Chicago. When he had cancer last year, their insurance company made them jump through more hoops than we ever have to deal with back home.”

A gentleman who just had major heart surgery said “What can I say? I was sick and I got the surgery I needed. That’s a lot more than your American friends who can’t afford sky high health insurance rates get.”

One couple wrote to say “Yes, we pay for it in the form of higher taxes, but it’s still a lot less than if we had to pay the health insurance premiums some of our American RV friends have to. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Another couple asked “What’s all the fuss about? We keep hearing Americans talking about how terrible government run health care is, but could it be worse than what you have now? Your system is broken because of the greed of the American medical establishment and the American health insurance industry. At least up here, we can get treatment if we need it!” 

One e-mail said “It is a lie that we Canadians have to be treated wherever and however the government says, and that we can’t go to a private doctor if we want to. We can, and we do. Or, we can use the public system if we want. Stop listening to the lies of the insurance companies who don’t want to lose the goose that keeps laying their golden eggs! It’s not socialism, it’s a common sense system that works. Try it, you’ll love it!”

Gee, those dumb Canadians must have been out in the cold too long and gotten their brains frostbitten. They like having a health care system that works! Go figure.

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24 Comments on Health Care, Canadian Style

  1. Chris Yust says:

    Bad Nick hit the nail right on the head! One of my closest RVing friends is Canadian and we talk about both our systems. Their system isn’t perfect but it beats ours by a long shot. Her daughter is a doctor, makes a good living and is told how much she can charge. She’s ok with that and enjoys her practice and her life. Very sick people in Canada are treated whereas if you have ever been sick here they deny you insurance and care!

  2. Paul Weaver says:

    Wonderful post Nick. My wife has been going to the same specialist for 6 years. She called to change a recent appointment and was told it would be Feb 10 before they could “work her in.” Then I hear my friends say they don’t want health care like Canada because they couldn’t get treatment when they need it. Socialism the say. They don’t return their social security checks or refuse medicare! But they’re quick to tear down our president. I’m 61 and can’t afford to get sick until I qualify for medicare. What a great system!

  3. Kathe K says:

    I totally agree….what we have now does not work for all Americans equally and we should stop mucking about and fix it once and for ALL.

  4. Steve says:

    Let’s face it, it is the overly greedy insurance companies who are using amazing amounts of money to keep voters from learning the truth. They buy Limbaugh and Beck who in turn spout nasty rheteric to confuse the listener. Fear and obfuscation is their stock in trade.
    I too, have discussed the issue at length with many of my friends from north of the border and found exactly what you report.
    Fact: Citizens of America, the greatest country on earth, pay more and get less health care than any other developed nation.

  5. We have a scandal monger “friend” who insists on sending us scare emails about anything our government is doing, or the condition of food in the markets, or lemon slices in the restaurants, or what kind of toilet paper you can use.

    Reality and “good” don’t make exciting “news.” We always appreciate the true story from those who live the life.

  6. Jan Chilson says:

    I’m glad you found some Canadians to support your post. We, too, have Canadian friends. Most of them HATE their healthcare system. We also have American friends who had to deal with the Canadian system in an emergency, and the Canadian doctors told them to get back to America for their care because Canada didn’t have the specialists they needed and they didn’t have the time to wait for treatment.

    We are (and have been) very happy with our healthcare over the years, but we have had to pay for it. Those payments were high because we were in the “small business-self employeed” group of people in this country. And then, Colorado passed the law that we had to supply the same health care for our employees that we personally had (a good idea for the Congress, BTW). Thank goodness all of our employees had wives working at companies that supplied healthcare. I had to go back to work for health care and our employees were able to “opt out” because they were covered by their spouses. If we had to pay for that, we would have been out of business pretty quick.

    Another point I have always found interesting – if our health care is so bad, why do people from all over the world sacrifice to come to our country for treatment? Maybe because we ARE the best already?

    You can always find someone to support your opinion, regardless of which side of the discussion you are on.

    And, as I was taught – you can’t get something for nothing. And – you get what you pay for. FREE healthcare if frightening to me for that very reason.

  7. Sue Scott says:

    You’re not getting it Jan Chilson. Bad Nick sent the same e-mail to all of his Canadian subscribers, including us, and got pretty much the same answer from all but one. We Canadians do like our system overall. And it’s not “free” as we pay for it with taxes. But unlike you, we don’t have to “go back to work” to pay for health insurance, or depend on a spouse with a job with a big company to provide health issuance. We all have it.

  8. Bob Ritchie says:

    As a Canuck RV’r & a regular Nick’s blog reader we see both sides. Our system is not perfect but if you are genuinely ill you get looked after. In many travels to the U.S. I find it absolutely amazing that you can die if you don’t have cash or insurance, that does not happen up here. We talk to many of your citizens & the underlying current this year is their concern over your health care or lack of. I wouldn’t trade our system for yours at the present time.

  9. Tom L says:

    Why don’t you take your socialist bullshit and your socialist blog and move to Canada with your all your socialist friends. If Canada is so damn great then why do so many of them people pack into RVs and go down to Florida and Arizona every winter? If people want to know the truth listen about what is happening to America just listen to Rush and Fox News. He tells it like it is! Not this socialist democrat propaganda. I’m done with this blog!

  10. Archie Long says:

    Put me down as another Canadian who is very satisfied with our health care. No complaints here.

  11. Guy Sowers says:

    I agree with Bad Nick. Instead of listening to the line of bull the insurance companies keep wanting us to believe and accepting it as gospel, it’s good to hear the truth from people who actualy have a government health care program. Sounds pretty good to me.

  12. Jan Chilson says:

    Sorry, but I think you are not getting it. I can CHOOSE to pay or not pay for health care and the level of care I want for my family. I am not forced to pay taxes for everyone else to have health care. We really have never had a problem with healthcare, but we have chosen to pay for good coverage. I’m sorry for those who have had problems. It influences their opinions and view points and I can understand that, just as my good coverage influences mine. But – overall, the US has good healthcare. I just don’t think we ought to throw out the entire system because parts of it are difficult. Why can’t we keep what’s good and repair or add the bad parts. I don’t understand why everyone thinks we need to reinvent the wheel.

    My bottom line for decisions will ALWAYS be less government involvement in my personal life.

  13. Jan Chilson says:

    OOPS – edit – “repair or replace the bad parts”

  14. Cathy K says:

    I also have talked to Candians, and folks from Norway, who like their health care systems. In addition I’ve talked to those who don’t. One Canadian friend I spoke with is an RN. She relayed to me the terrible short-falls they have in the health care profession & the increased workload. Isn’t this one thing that has been skirted in the US health care debate? We already have a terrible short-fall…what is being done to fix this part of the Health Care problem? I’m really torn between it all. There are always two sides to every argument, and I feel both sides of the issue have folks who are lying to the people. We have to use our own intellect to discover the truth. My husband and I have great Health Care insurance that we sacrificed for all our working lives. It is hard to face losing it…if we do, there is no recourse but to adjust. I hope whatever happens people will be in a better place.

  15. Steve says:

    The health care reforms that have been proposed by the President will not create the same system that is in Canada, or any other country. Reform will take the best parts of all systems to create something uniquely American. Isn’t that what our great country is all about?

    I expect Jan C. would have a different perspective if, or when, coverage was denied a family member. It happens far too often.

    As far as the Canadians coming to our southern states for the winter? I think they come for the climate. They return north for the same reason. Duh!

    Fact: Rush and Fox commentators make money by being controversial. They do not “tell it like it is”, they tell you what you like to hear. They often contridict themselves if it is expedient. They are not unique in this.

    Perhaps a discussion of what role our government “of the people, by the people, for the people” should be. Greedy corporations are not “We, the people.”

  16. MichaelG says:

    The health insurance companies aren’t particularly profitable. In fact, if you pass a law saying they have to cover everyone, and can’t charge high risk patients more, some health insurance companies might go out of business. I’m sure the unemployed workers will thank you.

    Doctors here are paid 50-100% more than Canadian doctors. If you want their kind of health care, you are going to have to cut all those salaries too.

    American patients get a lot more medical tests, and MRI’s/CAT scans instead of x-rays, etc. If you want Canadian care, you are going to have to give up the idea that you get aggressive treatment, especially near the end of life.

    Drug companies sell their product cheaper in Canada because the government requires them to sell at cost. If they try to raise prices (or even not sell in Canada), the government has threatened to seize their patents and just allow Canadian companies to make the drugs.

    I expect the malpractice system is different here too. If you have a bad outcome under a Canadian system, do you sue the government? Do you get the generous settlements you read about in the U.S.?

    Any health care system is fine until you need it. Then the differences will show up.

    In any case, the bill working its way through Congress doesn’t even resemble Canadian care. It’s a weird combination of insurance (but required and regulated, not a market-based product) and subsidies, and lots of promises. The closest thing to what they are proposing is the system in Massachusetts. Let’s hear what people think of that!

  17. Nina Seibel says:

    Oh how I dislike politics! Why don’t people think for themselves and not let someone else do it for them? We too know a lot of people from Canada and while they do not say their health plan is perfect, they would not trade it for ours. Something has to be done and anything done will not be perfect either, but we have to try and only by working together can it be successful. I have a friend that had a daughter in Canada who had a brain anyerism (I know that isn’t correct spelling). They were completely amazed at the prompt and wonderful skilled treatment she received and she is almost completely recovered. It is easy for someone to criticize a new health plan if they are sitting with good coverage, but many people are not that lucky and here in the US there should be noone not able to receive affordable health care. Wake up America!! We can do this, but it takes being united for the best cause possible.

  18. Markus says:

    Sorry for the lengthy post, Nick. However, I must have gotten frostbite in my brain, too, because I, too, like a health care system that works without bankrupting the patient. :-)

    As Austrian who moved to Canada, I have seen government run health care systems on two continents. Have I ever felt I was withheld treatment I needed? No, far from it. It always felt like I wouldn’t have to worry about the money side of things should something to wrong. You go, get the treatment you need, and focus on getting better. End of story.

    If you are severely ill, you really have other things to worry about than hospital bills and the burden that paying them places on your loved ones.

    And no, it’s not “free” health care. That has been mentioned before.

    The big difference is, the cost spread out across the entire population, which reduces the burden on the individual, and, even more importantly, the government is not trying to make a profit. They are just trying to break even and cover the cost.

    Does that mean free market economy is evil? No. It just means that making profit should stop where people’s lives are at stake. Not everything has to be about money ALL THE TIME.

    Is government health care perfect? No, of course not. Can it be annoying and frustrating if you have to go through the hoops? Yes. Have there been scandals of bad management and careless spending, the kind of stuff that gets heads rolling if it happens at a privately owned company? Sure.

    It’s about how much other people’s lives mean to the public. What “crap” are you willing to go through (and there will be crap in either system) for (a) the sake of others and (b) the knowledge that you won’t be screwed if something goes wrong.

    Also, it’s more about the elderly and sick than Average Joe. A healthy, young individual in a good job is going to do fine in either system. But how many 80+ year olds, living alone, with sufficient but modest pension income, can afford health care in the US?

    Case in point, my grandma, who is 84 now, was diagnosed with leukemia about two years ago. She is widowed and lives on a modest pension.

    The treatment that was prescribed consisted of IV medication, administered during 8 hour sessions at the hospital. The cost of the medication alone? EUR 6,000. Yes, that’s almost $9,000. PER SESSION! — Not counting the hospital bed, the doctor’s time, etc. She had probably about a dozen sessions total. $9,000*12 = $108,000 in medication cost alone. Did she have to pay any of that? No.

    The end result? A year later, the leukemia was gone. She’s alive today, having blast. Yes, she sure is having a good time being on this earth. She’s still seeing her doctor regularly. Her leukemia hasn’t come back to date. And neither her nor her children were forced to go into debt over it.

    That’s public health care for you.

  19. Dave Bossert says:

    Your blog came as a real coincidence, as I was just talking with a Canadian couple the other day. They too say that they are totally happy with their health care. They have coverage for both minor and major care at NO COST. Their advice was that we all should not believe the negative info out there. They really believe that there is big money in the US that is afraid of losing their cash cow. They said they just laugh at those negative TV ads. I know they are truthful and sincere and do believe them.

  20. Butch says:

    Howdy Nick,

    You’ve hit a spot that is very sore to me at present! (Pun intended.)

    U.S. healthcare is NOT bad or broken, the U.S. healthcare BUSINESS is what is beyond broken, it’s unbelievable.

    This week, I’ve been trying to get an MRI scheduled, I do have (some, limited DR office benefits and $5,000.00 deductible, of which I’ve met none) insurance.

    The procedure is approved, I’m using a network provider.
    I negotiated the price (between insurance discount and customer pay at the time of service to $960.00, BUT, the way they code the the paper work (code 11 on a form 1500 ???) the insurance treats this as a DOCTORS OFFICE BILL and won’t cover it OR ALLOW IT TOWARDS MY DEDUCTIBLE!

    Only if a facility bills it as a hospital or outpatient clinic will it be applied toward the deductible.

    The hitch, the cost at at hospital or outpatient clinic (which are all satellites of hospitals) is $4000.00 to $5000.00 dollars which doesn’t include the reading (this is included in the MRI facility charge of $960).

    It would save the insurance company money (and me) to let me get the most for my deductible before they (if they even have to) get involved, but that’s not the way it works.

    Then, they won’t/can’t even provide me with the names of any facilities that do meet ALL of the criteria to qualify. It is up to me to make all of the calls, find out how they bill and code (remember that many facilities use outside billing services, so they don’t even know) then call the doctors that do the reading (because it is usually separate) and go through the same thing.

    The insurance company’s answer to my situation, I should have asked these questions before I took out the policy with them. Heck, even the facilities involved don’t know the answers how can Joe Average begin to know the questions? That’s ridiculous.

    I hate government interference into our lives, but they created the problem, ONLY they can fix it (fat chance with big money lobby involved) and only a public option has any hope of throttling the run away healthcare business as it is now.


  21. Connie Braidh says:

    Yes, you get treated in an emergency. For anything else you get in line and wait. We know both Canadians and English who have brought family to private doctors. If they hadn’t, the people would have died waiting for their turn because it wasn’t an emergency. In England they have wards (large rooms with many beds and few nurses and doctors) for government care. With private coverage it’s better rooms, more nurses and doctors. They don’t see the same doctor (GP) or specialist at each visit. There is not then care which has continuity from visit to visit.
    I have had cancer twice. If I had waited “my turn”, I would have been dead. Yes, dead. I had two different aggressive cancers but waiting for “my turn” the lumpectomies and subsequent treatment would have caused metastasis and incredibly low chances of survival. Yes, medical care costs are high. Why? 31% of cost goes to paperwork and individuals to do the paperwork. Malpractice insurance is about another 1/3. So bring down the costs for doctors to do their work and bring down prices for services.
    And why should medical care be free? If my car or RV needs work and I get it fixed and the bill is $400, I pay it. If my body gets sick and I go to the doctor and have tests and the bills is $400, I pay it. Why do people belly ache about paying medical bills but only shrug and pay the auto or RV bills? Medical care is not a right any more than getting my RV or car fixed is a right.
    At the RV shop we had to go to this last year, the labor rates were over $100/hour. Should doctor’s work for less? And yes, you can get care in this country. I have been to emergency rooms, people get helped. My GYN helped a student of mine with a lowered fee and installment payments. Many doctors, dentists and optometrists donate time to free clinics. Charities help.
    We have the BEST medical system in the world. People come from all over to train in our hospitals and get the most up to date care. I don’t think we should throw out this system. Instead we should tweak it to eventually cover everyone.
    I DON’T want socialized medicine and reduced care compared to what I have now.

  22. Ann Geraghty says:

    Go Nick,
    Ny husband is in the VA med system, overall he gets good care. There are delays, and at times Docs you would rather not see, but the # of patients and the lack of medical personnel make it a difficult situation.Overall, good care and good people working there So we use government care and it provides him care we could not afford otherwise without depleting us financially. I would prefer being able to choose VA or private care, but we have no system that would cover us, yet. Too many go without medicine, medical visits, or just medical advise, so the ER gets filled and the Docs there have to work with little history on the patient. And, the patients keep getting bills they can’t pay. we waste too much of tax dollar and more should be applied where citizens get bang for their buck.

  23. Connie Braidh says:

    I would like to see Bad Nick’s comments on how we are going to pay for this new system of medical care? Another blog entry?
    And don’t tell me the rich should pay. They are already paying.
    From the National Payer Union (stats from IRS for 2007)
    % of earners AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) % of total
    Federal Income Tax
    top 1% $410,096 & up 40.42
    top 5% $160,041 60.63
    top 10% $113,018 71.22
    top 25% $66,532 86.59
    top 50% $32,879 97.11
    bottom 50% below $32,879 2.89

    So let’s see, essentially 70 plus percent of income tax is paid by people who make over $100,000 AGI per year (top 10% or so of earners). Approximately 50% of earners pay NO income tax at all.
    So who are we gonna stick for more taxes to pay for medical or really anything else? Why the “rich”, of course. And why are they rich, they EARNED it by hard work (The Millionaire Next Door, or the Millionaire Mind). They DESRVE to pay it because they are so lucky to be in this country and have the chance to succeed. ARRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I totally understand why many wealthy people move their money offshore. They are tired of being kicked around for being “wealthy” what ever that term means. Tired of bearing most of the tax burden. Tired of more and more taxes.
    Do I sound a little jaded or cynical over this issue. I sure do. My husband and I both worked hard to get the money we have. We’re not wealthy but we pay a goodly portion of our yearly income to income taxes. We earned our money and were frugal to always put money in the bank (pay yourself first), be careful with money, watch your pennies, deny yourself some luxuries in order to retire early and have money to do it. And I don’t like it when the ne’re-do-wells stick out their hands and complain about poor me. If we need more money for medical care, let’s have everyone contribute at least something to universal health care. It won’t happen because the “poor” will cry foul while they buy their cigarettes, junk food, booze, cell phones, TV’s, cars, etc.
    Oh well……..

  24. Ron Olsen says:

    Nick I feel that I have something to add to this discussion since I have lived under both systems and am a medical professional albeit just a horse doctor. I lived and worked in Canada for 14 years in my early career. I received good care under the Canadian system but felt that my care was above the average persons on the street. I assumed it was the fact that I was a medical professional and they were afraid of my word in court. I observed many people with very inadequate care and some who were actually killed by the care or lack of it. The young doctors just out of medical school were very progressive and interested in their patients. In a few years they were so beaten down by patients that would use their time for non-essential services that they appeared to not care anymore. I had one of my clients tell me that he saw basically the entire medical community in the tow line on the ski slope and asked them if they had left me in charge of the emergencies.

    One doctor in town bragged to me that he had never been out of the community in 40 years of practice for continuing education, He was also the quack that I watched kill his patients with neglect and incompetence. It took the local tribe going to the government to get his license revoked. Many of my clients were crippled due to his unwillingness to refer them to a specialist so that they could get adequate care when it was needed.

    When anything is “free” people do not respect its value. I would receve calls that were perceived emergencies and the callers did not own a thermometer for the children or the animals because they would take the child to the doctor to have his or her temperature taken. This type of attitude destroys the doctor-patient relationship. This is only one example how a “free” medical system undermines the system. There has to be a cost up front so that the patient values the system and does not abuse the system. This is very evident in our ER rooms in the US.

    I feel that the litigious nature of the US is a large part of the cost of and problems with the US system. In Canada there are very few suits over medical practices and even run of th mill greivances that would cause a suit in the US. Because of this situation doctors run test that there is no reason for to CYOA. This not only increses cost but puts patients lives in danger. When people are rewarded for medical malpractice it is not them that are rewarded but the lawyers. The other large cost is all of the hospitals competing with each other to draw patients and have the newest and most expensive equipment. Guess what these hospitals don’t have to justify there expenditures on the bottom line because they are government entities and just go to the voters. In Canada there would not be 5 public hospitals in a population of 100,000 people like you see in the US. This would cut down the medical costs as the equipment and facilities would be more fully utilized.

    I agree with Connie in that where is this money going to come from. There is only so much that you can tax before you have revolt or non compliance. I get very upset when I see someone spending $20-30 a day on cigarettes and booze and then telling me they can’t afford insurance. They are the ones causing the excessive cost to the system and are contributing nothing.

    The plans are to take away medicare advantage plans to fund this scheem. We have had one or another of these plans since becoming elgible for medicare and they have served us well. They have not broken the bank and even with my chemo this last spring I was able to cover my expenses. There was $3500 up front that I had to pay but that I managed. The part that I don’t understand is how the hospital can charge $60,000 and be happy with $26,000. That is for one treatment. Why can’t everyone pay the negotiated price. I guess that is to pay for those with no insurance that they have to eat.

    The comment about the lady at 84 that would have no treatment in the US is totally bogus. She would be on medicare and even without a supplemental plan nearly all of it would have been paid by the government. My mother at 95 goes along without a supplemental plan on only social security and does very well. She never feels in want for medical care.

    That is enoough ranting. Ron

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