That terrible Canadian Healthcare Systemby Denise Early on Sep. 29, 2009, under Health
Recently, I was on a plane headed to Seattle and happened to sit next to two ladies from British Columbia, Canada. Being in the insurance business I had to ask these ladies to tell me about “the terrible healthcare system in Canada”.
From the confused look on their faces, it was clear they weren’t sure if I was serious about “the terrible system” question, so I quickly told them I was just kidding. They gave me a relieved smile and we proceeded to spend the entire flight talking about health care in Canada and the United States.
Pat is a nurse who works for a non-profit home support agency which is contracted with the government in British Columbia. She said her agency has 1,000 community health workers who provide in-home care for seniors.
The list of in-home services ranges from skilled nursing care to housekeeping. I was very impressed when she said elderly Canadian military veterans can get help with yard work – paid for by the government!
Canadians pay for these services on a sliding scale based on income, but the amounts are modest and affordable for everyone, according to Pat. Some people pay nothing while others pay 20%, 40%, or more of the costs, based on their income.
We talked about how much health insurance costs in each of our countries, and I told her I work with a woman who has been self-employed for many years and pays for health insurance for herself and her husband. Their monthly premium is $1,400 per month.
The Canadians shook their heads in disbelief. They said most Canadian employers pay for their workers’ health insurance premiums, which are: $54.00 per month per individual; $96.00 for family of 2; $108.00 for family of 3 or more. Once again, I was very impressed.
I asked the Canadians what truth there might be to stories about long waits for medical services in their government-run program. They said there are waits for things but, “if you have a life-threatening illness, you are cared for immediately”, Pat said. Her daughter had a brain hemorrhage at 16 and had emergency brain surgery – at no cost to the family. Her grandson was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 5 and went through 5 long years of treatment, and many months of hospital stays – at no cost to the family.
Pat did have an example of having to wait for surgery. She said she had problems with her gall bladder and went on a wait list for six months. But, she said, “If I had had an acute episode, they would have operated on me right away.” She seems very happy with her government-run healthcare, and I was impressed that it all seems so normal.
As we finished up our conversation, Pat said there are issues with too much demand for services in some parts of Canada. She said, “For home support there are no waits in Victoria, but in other parts of the country, I think they have a shortage of staff and there is a lot more of an expectation that family will care for the elderly until services can be provided”.
I think the key phrase here is “services can be provided”. As an insurance agent, my line of business is Medicare-related. The majority of my clients are moderate and low-income seniors, and many live alone with no family nearby – and little, if any, government support.
While I’m sure the Canadian system isn’t perfect, it sounds a lot better than what we have in the United States. I had to shake my head and admit that American system leaves a very bad impression.