Sunday, July 19, 2009

Canadian Health Care

The following piece was written by a family friend of my friend, Ninette Bavaro-Latronica, who just returned from visiting relatives in Toronto. She has long been impressed with Canada's 40-year-old universal coverage. As an intro, Ninette pointed out that her cousin, ill with cancer, has benefited from one aspect of the free Canadian plan: a nurse visited his home for 4 hours each day to care for him. In the U.S., such visits would bankrupt many people; in Canada, they are part of the free plan. One final note: a recent column noted that Canada has had problems with funding, and proposes that one possible solution would be to keep the overall plan, but have wealthier Canadians (earning over $100,000/year) pay co-payments for some services, up to about $2500 a year. That would still be far far less than U.S. plans which run up to $15,000 a year. What follows is the article by Ninette's Canadian friend.

As Canadians, our American family and friends have been asking a lot about Canadian health care the past week with all the talk of bringing in government health care in the U.S.A.

As a Canadian I have to say that I am taken back in a very bad way by all the false videos coming on-line this past week about the Canadian health system and painting it as a third world mess.
So I thought I would post some stats and info for our American friends on the Canadian health system so you can see what it is all about.

Before I start with the stats, I want to point out that just like the American health system, the Canadian system is not perfect. It has issues that need to be addressed. But overall the system works great.


Canada's health system operates under a government insurance plan. All Canadians regardless of age or income receive the same health coverage, paid for by the government. This Canadian government health coverage covers
services such as:
Visits to a doctor
Diagnostic services
Treatment for injuries or illnesses
Hospital care
Government health care does not cover dental care, eye care, eye glasses or services that are not medically necessary, for example, cosmetic surgery.

In the Canadian system you are allowed to
-Choose your own doctor
-Choose the hospital you want to go to
-Decide to seek other opinions from other doctors or hospitals

Under no circumstances does the government choose which hospital or doctor you go to.

The system basically operates like the private health system in the USA, just the government health insurance pays your bills instead of private insurance.

The Canadian health system is one of the most up to date in the world, and several world reknown hospitals are located here. These include Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Sick Kids Hospital, and many others. The Toronto General Hospital actually was just in the news for creating a special device to help lung transplant patients live longer while waiting for a lung transplant. This device will now be used in American and other world hospitals.

Another question we get asked is about wait times.

The Canadian health system works on how urgent your need is. If you have an illness that needs to be addressed you will get the care fast. But if you have a minor issue such as a small cut and go to the emergency room, than you will wait a little.

That being said, Canada does have an issue with wait times in some hospitals, and the government is addressing this issue now, by expanding emergency rooms and providing more funding to fix these bottlenecks.
Another issue that is being addressed is the lack of new doctors in some parts of the country. This has to do with funding cuts to universities in the 1990's that saw less students entering medical school. The government is addressing this issue now and funding is coming back on-line for universities.

There are lots of videos floating around on the net saying that the Canadian system rations things from tetanus shots, to heart bypass surgery. This is not true. Other claims floating around are that Canada has no medical clinics open on weekends or at night, etc. That is also false.

Overall Canadians receive the same top notch health care Americans get, the difference is that when they ask for your health card, Canadians pull out a Government Health Insurance card(called OHIP in Ontario), and Americans pull out cards from insurance companies or pay on their own.

This is what our health cards look like. This is for Ontario the province we live in. Every resident carries a card like this. You just present this card and receive medical care. Want to know why we have pictures on our cards? Because Americans were coming up to Canada and using their Canadian family members cards to get health care, when our cards had no photos.

(photo I.D. for Canadian plan--much like a U.S. driver's license)

Some stats.

Life expectancy

Canada: 80.4 years

United States: 77.8

Infant mortality Rate

Canada: 5.4 per 1,000

United States: 6.9 per 1,000

Per capita expenditure on health (USD)

Canada: $3,678

United States: $6,714

Healthcare costs as a percent of GDP

Canada: 10.0

United States: 15.3

Basically the U.S.A. spends a higher percentage of tax dollars on health care each year than Canada does, yet everyone is not covered like in Canada.

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