Thursday, July 5, 2012

Setting the Record Straight

This is the blog post I know I shouldn't write. I have talked myself out of writing it, only to talk myself right back into writing it at least a dozen times over the past week. I know I stand the risk of hate mail, losing followers, and having people think and say bad things about me.

I do not want to make a political statement with what is to follow. I am not taking sides in the current health care debate South of 49. I am not saying that Americans should have what we have here in Canada, or that if you did have it the outcome would be the same. In other words, this post is in no way meant to give advice, take sides, or do anything else that could prove to be divisive. There already seems to be more than enough of that going around without me contributing to it.

What this post is meant to do is to clear up some common misconceptions about the Canadian health care system. As I have been reading this past week about the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Obamacare, over and over again I see the Canadian system brought up in articles, forums and social media. And let's just say that facts have been in short supply. So, instead of grinding my teeth and muttering to myself I thought I would try to do something more productive. If you have no interest in the Canadian health care system please forgive this rant, and come back in a few days when I return to normal (not that I have ever been normal, but you know what I mean). For those of you who are interested, please read on, keeping in mind that this is not a statement for or against Obamacare.

I want to start with a sample of what has made me so crazy this week. Here is a comment after an online article on the recent decision. "...socialized medicine increases the size of government and leads to socialism which makes people poor." Granted, that one didn't mention Canada, but since we have socialized medicine I figured it applied to us.

And there was this one. "I also feel terrible for the Canadians. Where are they supposed to go now when they need something done without having to wait two years for it?"

Or this. "There is horror story after horror story about lack of funding in the UK and Canada for enough medical treatment."

And there were all the anecdotal reports - the kind where someone knew someone who knew someone with a connection to Canada, followed by some medical horror story.

The per capita expenditure on health care in Canada is $3895 compared to $7290 in the US. 10% of Canada's GDP is spent on health care with 100% of the people covered. 17% of the US GDP is goes to health care, but 15% of the population has no coverage.

Perhaps you are thinking that the fact we spend less means we have worse outcomes. Not so. Both infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are lower in Canada than in the US, and the average life expectancy of a Canadian is two years longer than that of an American. (Imagine what it would be if we gave up our donuts and poutine.)

It is commonly believed that we pay higher taxes overall in order to support our medical system, but this is not true. The average after tax income in Canada is 82% of gross pay compared to 81.9% in the US.

Universal health care is often portrayed as being a bureaucratic nightmare. The reality is 31% of every health care dollar spent in the US goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, etc. The Canadian single-payer system has a 1% overhead.

The government does not determine who gets medical care, or what care they get. In Canada it is the physician who makes all medical decisions.

Canadian doctors are not employed by the government. Most physicians in this country are self-employed.

No patient needing urgent care is made to wait. I don't care how many anecdotal stories you have read, it just isn't so. We have a triage system, which means if you are in an emergency room with a headache you are going to have to wait longer than the person having a heart attack. Need moves you to the front of the line, not money.

The average wait for elective (meaning non-emergency) surgery is 4 weeks. The average wait to see a specialist is 4 weeks. The average wait for a diagnostic test such as an MRI or CAT scan is two weeks.

Over 90% of Canadians support our universal health care system. Which in itself should be enough to stop all the inaccurate stories. After all, if it was really as bad as it is so often portrayed in the US media it wouldn't have that kind of approval rating.

And just so you don't think I have come completely unhinged I will close on a lighter note. I cast on for this little project this week and can't seem to put it down. My knitting time has been totally focused between this and one other addictive project I cast on last week. Any guesses as to what it is going to be?



36 comments:

  1. Knitting a hat? I like the combination of the white and brown together on the yawn. Whatever you are knitting, I'm sure it will come out looking nice!

    Thanks for the information about the Canadian healthcare system. I honestly didn't know that much about it. It does seem like it is a workable one and care is being provided in a timely manner. I used to work in doctor offices down here in the States and sometimes it would take longer than four weeks to get into a specialist's office for an appointment, depending on what the specialty was.

    I hope the day is a great one!

    betty

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    1. It's not a hat, but that was a good guess. I have knit a hat incorporating the same pattern.

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  2. I know exactly what you are knitting and I envy you. My knitting triage puts that project down about number three, unfortunately. You can pave the way for me. And health care in Canada? Can I tell you about the thousands of dollars that HAVEN'T come out of my pocket in the last few years for all the tests/procedures etc. that I've had? I'm very grateful for what we have up here.

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    1. This was supposed to be low on my triage knitting list too, but I just couldn't help myself! What do you think of the Shetland yarn?

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  3. Thanks for sharing this, Christie. It is good to hear it from your perspective.

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    1. You're welcome. It felt good to write the post even if it doesn't make much of a difference.

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  4. Is there a nice cup of tea on offer for your visitors?

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    1. Great guess! And yes, there will be a nice cuppa for any visitors that drop by. :-)

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  5. Hi Kristie
    Thanks for setting the record straight. The myths annoy me too!

    All the best

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  6. I think this is an amazingly helpful post! I didn't have any preconceptions about it (though I've heard people rambling on and on in a number of different directions to suit whatever story they're trying to tell), so I'm glad to read about your great healthcare system. After my terrible winter battling our healthcare system I'm keenly aware of how broken it is. Thank you for writing this!

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    1. I'm glad you found it helpful. Our system is far from perfect, but I wouldn't trade it for any other.

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  7. Thanks for speaking up! I'm a US citizen who wants to examine and compare other countries' healthcare systems to learn what changes might be practical and desirable in ours. Facts are appropriate, not the angry political cliches which nearly drown out the current discussion of the issues.

    Kate Davies's tea cozy - excellent choice.
    -- stashdragon

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    1. The angry political cliches make it almost impossible to sort out fact from fiction. It feels like whichever side yells the loudest thinks they will win.

      You are right - it is Kate Davies's tea cozy! It is a great pattern!

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  8. But Obamacare comes with death panels!!! Soylent Green here we come.

    LOL, sorry, I couldn't help it after seeing that you'd been reading quotes from some of our leading scholars. =)

    What bothers me about the health mandate is that our politicians are all tied up in knots trying to claim it's not a tax, it's something the gov't is making you buy. That's nuts. The gov't shouldn't get into the business of deciding what people should buy, but they can tax us. So let's agree with our Chief Justice that it's a tax and move on. I'm pro-universal health care. But it's frustrating that we're getting to it in what may be the dumbest way possible. I say "may be" because I don't want to underestimate us.

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    1. Right, the death panels... :-)

      I must admit the tax issue has me very confused. I wish there was a place to go to read a balanced view of the issue. If you know of one please point me to it.

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  9. The cozy! The cozy! I downloaded that the same day it was available. I cannot wait to start knitting it. (No knitting this week because it's over 90 degrees in Minnesota and I don't have ac.)

    Loved your post about the Canadian health care system. Thanks for setting the record straight. I gotta say, as a native of the only state in the US to pass single-payer health care (yet), I don't really see what all the fuss is about. Save money, have a more rational system, get people the health care they need. (Yeah, I get the big deal: the insurance companies are going to lose money. Sigh.)

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    1. I downloaded it right away too. It was too cute to resist! A friend and I went halves on a yarn order, and our Jamieson & Smith yarn arrived from the UK in under a week!

      I'm glad you liked the post. I wasn't sure what kind of reception it would get.

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  10. Great post, Kristie! I recently read a story of a Canadian who wished to move herself and her business to the U.S. but because of her medical history, could not get health insurance at any price - no company would cover her. I think many of us complain about the perceived inadequacies of the Canadian healthcare system until we hear stories like that. Then we realize how fortunate we are. Call it socialism if you will - what's in a name, after all? - and why is that a bad word in the American lexicon, anyway?

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    1. I think the Americans fear of anything described as being "socialist" goes back to the Cold War days. I don't think that same degree of fear ever took hold here in Canada.

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  11. I read of the U.S. debate with great confusion, I must admit. I think as we never had the big rebellion against government/head of state interference in our history, maybe we just can't understand the depth of mistrust there is. Our system isn't perfect, but I haven't had to pay an extra dime for doctor's visits, etc and most importantly I didn't have to worry about going into debt to have a baby and needing medical intervention at the hospital.

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    1. I agree that it is confusing. And also that even though our system isn't perfect it is very nice to not have huge medical bills to worry about. Alexandra had 8 years in a row where her monthly medical costs were around $2300. Procedures and doctor's visits probably added on another $5000 per year. And a couple of those years she had lengthy hospital stays, which probably ran over $10,000 each. Our family would have gone bankrupt if we were in a user pay system.

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  12. interesting post. The UK healthcare system isn't perfect by any means but I would have it any day over the US. As with you if you go into A&E with something trivial expect to wait over a real emergency. No system is perfect and you hear horror stories in the headlines one day followed by high praise the next, so who do you believe?

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    1. I would really like to read a good synopsis of the UK medical system. I know you also have universal medical care, but I am assuming there are differences between what the UK has and what Canada has. When I read all the annoying reports and comments about our system (coming from outside our country) they often lump Canada and the UK together as though they are identical, which of course they aren't.

      The reality is, in the US there is a triage system in place as well. If it is busy at the emergency room, the person with the headache is going to wait while the heart attack gets dealt with, just like here.

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  13. What puzzles me -- who know virtually nothing about it -- is that Americans have "socialised medicine" in the form of Medicare and they LOVE it.

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    1. Yes, it is very odd. Americans are paranoid about anything with the word socialized attached, so I wonder if the fact it is called Medicare removes it enough in their minds that they don't think about what it really is.

      They also have socialized roads and public schools, and don't seem to have a problem with those.

      To be honest the whole hornet's nest this has stirred up in the US puzzles me.

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  14. Good post, Kristie. Facts are exactly what are needed in this never-ending debate. The main problem, in my opinion, is that most of my fellow Americans are ignorant of basic facts of government and politics. They're content to believe the opinions-presented-as-facts on their favorite cable news channel, never making an effort to educate themselves by further research. Without socialism we wouldn't have any of the social programs that so many Americans rely on, and besides that, I think our form of unregulated capitalism is much scarier than "redistributing wealth."
    Don't get me started or I'll have to write about this on my blog too. And I just spent too much time on my soapbox about another controversial issue recently (as you know), so I should probably stick to writing about birding for a while, LOL. ~Kim

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    1. That is so true. It seems to me as long as it doesn't have the word socialized attached to it it does much better. That may be why nobody has a problem with public schools or the highway system.

      I need to go back to safe topics too now! I will avoid talking about healthcare and you can avoid cats. :-)

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    2. Sometimes I feel like a bad citizen for avoiding discussion of civic and social topics on my blog. And the whole thing about avoiding politics and religion in "polite company" -- I know that's so that people don't get in arguments, but isn't arguing (debating) a necessary part of educating ourselves and learning about opposing viewpoints? But on the other hand, it doesn't seem there can be any rational debate about anything in this country anymore. So many people are so firmly entrenched in their opinions (however ill-founded they may be), that presenting facts that contradict those opinions is immediately shouted down as anti-American. OMG, here I go again...I'm not coming back to this post again...you're a bad influence, LOL!

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  15. Thank you for this post! I, for one, would welcome true universal health care in the U.S. But, then, I am one of those latte-drinking, sushi-eating, east coast liberals one heard so much about in our last election.

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    1. You're welcome! I hope it cleared up some misconceptions!

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  16. The carusel sheep tea cozy isn't it??? I just bought the sheep heid pattern, sio this would have to wait (due to -very-limited finances at the moment)... can't wait to see hoe yours will turn out...

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    1. You are right! The sheep are the same on both the hat and the cozy. Did you order the Jamieson & Smith yarn for your hat? If so, there is a chance you might have enough left of two of the colours to knit the cozy without having to buy any extra yarn!

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  17. Great post! It sounds like Canada has a similar health care system to New Zealand as well, I consider us really lucky, even though it isn't perfect!

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    1. Thanks Sarah - our system isn't perfect either, but I think we are fortunate too.

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  18. Somehow I've gotten behind in reading posts, so I'm late to this discussion. Thanks for the information about the Canadian healthcare system, Kristie. One misconception that I had was regarding taxes paid by Canadians vs. taxes paid by those of us in the U.S. I had always thought that Canadians paid much higher taxes than we do, in part to fund the Canadian healthcare system.

    I'm retired from a U.S. health insurance company, so I find discussions of our proposed future healthcare coverage both interesting and disconcerting. I would love to read the actual proposal, rather than the bits and pieces of biased reports from both sides of this heated issue.

    I recognized Kate Davie's pattern. I had already bought the hat pattern some time back, and just recently saw the tea cozy pattern. I'm a hot tea drinker year round , but usually only heat my water in the microwave (shameful, I know), so didn't buy the cozy pattern. I guess I should knit a microwave cozy!

    Mary G. in Texas

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