Seven Reasons Why Canadians Love-Hate Their Health Care Program

A couple of years ago the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation held a television series attempting to nominate the most influential Canadian ever. The winner would earn the title The Greatest Canadian Ever. Many names were put forth over the weeks leading up to the final, and in the long run the winner was Tommy Douglas.

Tommy Douglas was the premier of Saskatchewan for 17 years but never Canada’s Prime minister. Among his many accomplishments was the establishment of Canada’s Universal Public Health Care. Among his claim to fame is the fact he is the grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland the actor.

Canadians have him to thank when they are suddenly taken ill or must visit their doctor for an ailment.

Here are the seven reasons why they love/hate it.

The plan is universal. Canadians are covered wherever they live in Canada.
Each province has it’s own care card. Once a resident moves from one province to another all they need to do is to register, have their photo taken and they are issued a new card.

It is very inexpensive. No it is not free. A tax of 7 or 8 percent is collected on nearly everything we purchase. Automobiles and homes are exempt as well as children’s clothing and some food products.

Show your health care card and you are into the hospital now. Arriving at a hospital or medical clinic Canadians are asked for their hospital care card. This will act as proof of coverage and the admittance procedure carries on.

Almost every medical test and procedure is covered. Not everything is covered. For instance if a person is hearing impaired and requires extensive testing by an audiologist before being fitted for a hearing aid, this in exempt. A portion of the aid may be covered. However, if the problem has resulted in the patient being profoundly deaf they may be a candidate for a cochlea implant. This procedure can cost as much as $50,000. And is provided free under the program.

Cosmetic procedures such as wart removal, breast implant, plastic surgery are not covered. Certain blood tests are not covered. If a specialist requires sophisticated testing procedures in an attempt to discover the reason for a pulmonary emboli they may ask for eight or more complicated blood tests to be carried out. Some of these are exempt.

Coverage works in strange ways. A friend had contracted glaucoma. Over the years she required many visits to the specialists. Eventually she required a cornea transplant. All of these procedures were covered. She then developed a cataract on her other eye. The plan covered the operation and the new lens. The lens coverage was based upon provision of an older type. The new and improved type cost was $300. And was not covered.

Because the health care plan is regulated by the government, bureaucracy shows it’s ugly head. Waiting lists are long and wait times for certain procedures are equally long. For instance, in New Brunswick, a person requiring heart a bypass procedure may wait for up to six months. A knee replacement in Ontario takes about the same. These waiting times are expected and those in need should prompt their doctors to be proactive in diagnosing the problems and gaining access to the waiting list at the earliest possible instance.

The Canadian Universal Health Care Plan may not be perfect but it is one every Canadian citizen can be forever thankful.

The Experiment in Universal Health Care Coverage

The medical care system in the US has become more and more dysfunctional over time. Two states, however, are offering universal health care for their citizens.

There are roughly 300 million people in the country. Of this total, roughly 46 million do not have any health insurance. Put in practical terms, this means one out of every six people are risking financial ruin if they need any significant medical care. Given the fact a certain percentage are children and you have a fairly dire situation.

Universal health care coverage is a hotly debated topic. There are many sides to the issue. On one hand, it would seem logical that the richest country in the world could come up with a system that provides health care to all of its citizens. On the other, there needs to be a financial reward to people and companies in the medical industry that research and advance the art of medicine.

At the federal level, the issue is one politicians like to talk about, but nobody really wants to touch. For whatever reason, the last eight years have seen little federal leadership on domestic issues. Fortunately, one state is trying something new and aggressive.

Massachusetts represents the most aggressive universal health care solution. Under a law passed by a Democratic legislature and signed by a Republican governor, all citizens of the state are required to buy health care insurance by the end of June in 2007. All businesses with more than 10 employees must either offer their employees health care cover or pay a “fair share” of the cost of the universal coverage. The fair share is determined on a sliding scale, but can be as much as $295 a year per worker.

The really interesting aspect of the plan is the enforcement provision. Any individual that does not buy into the plan loses their personal state tax exemption the first year. The next year, they can be fined for failure to comply. The fine is 50 percent of the premium they would be otherwise paying. Businesses also face penalties. In short, this is a health plan with some bite to it.

So, how has the plan worked out? Well, we don’t really know. It is simply to early as the effective start date is really this summer. By the summer of 2008, it should be clear whether this approach works or not. Many states are watching the experiment closely. If it does work out, you can expect to see similar plans launched by other states as well.