Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Loulou's Anatomy (My take on Health Care)
No, this post has nothing to do with Grey's Anatomy, except I will be talking about doctors, and also? Aren't you excited for the season premiere? I am. I totally am.
This post is about health care. It's on all our minds. It's the most important thing I care about when it comes to who I vote for. And reading Pauline's recent posts about her views on health care, it got me thinking I should finally write about my views on this topic, too. (If you haven't read her posts yet, you should - she covers the latest developments from a US perspective.)
I feel blessed to be living in a country as great as Canada for many reasons - one being our health care system. While it is far from perfect, I think it is pretty darn good. And I've had lots of first-hand experience, which I'll talk about later on.
If you don't know much about Canada's health care system, let me summarize for you: basically, everyone gets free health care.
"Canada's national health insurance program, often referred to as "Medicare", is designed to ensure that all residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services, on a prepaid basis. Instead of having a single national plan, we have a national program that is composed of 13 interlocking provincial and territorial health insurance plans, all of which share certain common features and basic standards of coverage. Framed by the Canada Health Act, the principles governing our health care system are symbols of the underlying Canadian values of equity and solidarity."
Canada's universal health care system covers about 70% of expenditures. Ophthalmology and dental services account for a lot of the private expenditures in Canada. So, basically, you have to pay to to go to the dentist - if you are not insured. I have insurance through my job in the Federal Government - which pays my dental fees, massage therapy, eyeglasses, etc. The benefits and pension plan that Federal Government employees receive are excellent - not to mention the one year maternity leave we get which includes, basically, our FULL salary for the year we're off - but that's another post!
Back to health care. A recent study I read said there are approximately 45 million Americans who are uninsured at any one time. I think this number is depressing, if it is in fact accurate. That means that these people do not have access to proper health care. (Studies show that 40% of US citizens and only 5% of Canadian citizens lack adequate access to health care). That is just wrong!
I think Canada's system where everyone in entitled to health care is fair and right. Can you imagine what it must be like to be a poor mother living in the United States with a sick child who requires hospitalization, only to realize she can't receive the proper care for her child because she can't afford it? I feel terrible for people in these situations. Something should be done to allow everyone - ESPECIALLY children - access to the same care as those who can afford health care.
At the same time, I should point out that I am also a huge supporter of private health care. I think in a perfect world, in a perfect country, a two-tiered system would be allowed. Many countries already have two-tiered systems. Canada does not - yet. (Just certain provinces in Canada do.) In a two-tiered system, there would be private clinics and hospitals for people to go to if they wanted to pay. And there would still be quality hospitals for people who cannot afford to go to the private hospitals, or those who don't want to pay. There would still be 'free' hospitals and clinics, so everyone would receive the same quality care they so deserve if they are sick.
I absolutely think that there should be clinics and hospitals where a person can go to and pay to be seen faster, or to get an MRI done quicker. Many people do not agree with this concept. And I get that. But... when it comes to my health - or my children's - I want nothing but the best. Even if I have to pay for it.
Having a two-tiered health care system in place across Canada would be ideal, I think. I'd like to have a choice. If I want to pay for a certain test, I should be able to. It's my health, after all. Instead of waiting 2 months for, say, an MRI - I'd only have to wait two days. This, in turn, would actually reduce the wait times for people waiting in the public system for the same test. See? Win-win situation.
Some say Canada already has a two-tiered system - the second tier being "The USA" which is where people go if they have money and need urgent care - again, I don't see a problem with this. If need be, I'd go to my friendly neighbours for health care, too. As I am sure most of you would, as well! Of course it is not fair to those who cannot afford to do this - but if it comes down to your health, or your child's health, wouldn't you do whatever you could to make sure they are receiving the best care possible? Even it meant having to pay?
Now, the experience I have had with hospitals in Canada has been nothing but excellent, although I'm sure at the time I had a few complaints. However, when my oldest son was 12 weeks old, he had a high fever, so we rushed him to CHEO, where he was seen RIGHT AWAY, and after determining he had a kidney infection, was in a room on the 4th floor with an IV getting better. No waiting, no worries, no forms to fill out. No bill. Despite the many ultrasounds he had. Just good quality care by some excellent doctors and urologists. He was sick again when he was 6 months old, with another kindey infection, and he was in a room being treated shortly after we arrived.
This past winter, he got a bad case of pneumonia. While we did have to wait in the emergency room for a few hours to be seen, once we were seen, an x-ray was performed and he was admitted - for two weeks. He even needed surgery to drain fluid from his lung and a chest tube was in him for 4 days. He had countless x-rays, ultrasounds and a C/T scan. It was all free. (Let's not talk about the horror of seeing my child so sick - something I'll never forget.) His doctors were all brilliant and deserve all the money they make.
Sure, we are taxed super high in Canada, but holy hell, it is worth it if my child is treated so well in the hospital! I have nothing but the best things to say about our experience with CHEO and the fabulous doctors and nurses. Especially the nurses. They deserve an entire post, too. Am I too understand that there are children in the United States who get pneumonia but are not treated because their parents can't afford the insurance? Please tell me this is not the case!
What it comes down to is this - free health care = excellent. Everyone should have access to free health care, with quality doctors taking care of them, and no child should be left untreated. Every child deserves the same care. Absolutely.
It would not be harming anyone if we allowed a two-tiered health care system across Canada. I know there are private clinics in bordering provinces, and I'm thankful for that. We should be allowed to pay for a test if we want to. As long as the quality of care were to remain the same in our public hospitals.
Now, I'm not one to usually talk politics here on my blog, and please forgive me if I have any information wrong in this post. Feel free to correct me. I like to keep things light and happy on my blog, but this is an issue that weighs heavily on my mind, and I wanted to discuss it. I would love to hear your thoughts on health care, whether you live in Canada, the United States, or Europe. I am hoping everyone can be civilized with their comments, and although I have no problem with a heated debate, let's try to remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, okay?