Sunday, November 4, 2012

Health Care, Eh?

Let's play a game.

True or false: Canada is a socialist country.

True or false: the United Kingdom is also full of socialists. 

Haha, Kelly, you're so silly. Those aren't socialist countries! They're just like us, except they have different accents. 

Turns out, they're actually NOT like us, because they put an extra "u" in the words "colour" and "favourite" and also because they have a national health care system. 

The same thing that we should have, because almost all of the other developed nations of the world have it (this includes most of Europe, Australia, and a few Asian countries as well. To see a full list, click here.). But every time it comes up, people scream socialism and then usually add on a few other ignorant slurs because that's how we roll, and we all know that "socialism" is a bad word. People are afraid of what they don't understand, and I don't think we really understand how it works in other places.

If Barack Obama is a socialist for implementing the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), then Mitt Romney is also a socialist, because he did the exact same effing thing in Massachusetts (naturally, "Romneycare.") I think the good people of Massachusetts are doing okay... I don't see them running around being all socialist, whatever it is that socialists do besides hand out health care.

Socialism: I do not think it means what you think it means.

(Sidenote: I really like this article/post I just found - "Obama is simply not a socialist. Or, if he is, he's the absolute worst socialist in the history of socialism." And then it goes on to describe Actual Socialism. Also: the guy is from Texas, not typically a place known for being pro-liberal.)

Hell, even the socialists won't claim Obama. 

Quote, this article:
"It makes absolutely no sense," said Greg Pason, national secretary of the Socialist Party USA. Obama's health care overhaul "is anything but socialist. It's bailing out for-profit companies."

It’s kind of the opposite of socialism when it helps insurance companies by hand-delivering them millions of new customers. That’s VERY capitalist.
From what I can tell, most people like the main points of the ACA (for example: no denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, keeping your kids on your insurance until they're 26), so I think the issue most people have is with that of mandating coverage. But the only way to keep insurance companies from flipping their shit ("this person has [insert disease here]! they're going to be expensive!  wahhh!") is to basically guarantee them a larger pool of customers. I don't know. I'm still figuring it out.

Moving on to the original point of this, post, though...

I recently asked some of my Canadian friends to describe their health care... and I will admit, I am super, super jealous of it. If I wasn't a big enough wuss about Midwestern winters as it was, I would totally move up there and injure myself over and over just to bask in the glory of not having to pay for any of it. I'm kidding, of course, but man... I wish we'd get our shit together down here. Hell, Obamacare isn't even CLOSE to being the same as the universal health care system that our friends up north have. 


The health care where I'm from (Alberta) is free - no monthly fees/yearly fees. If you don't have insurance through work or private insurance, you still pay for prescriptions and things like massage/chiropractic. However, going to see a doctor is free, if you get very sick (cancer etc.) your treatments are covered, if you have a baby you don't pay for any costs. In fact when I heard how much having a baby can cost in the US, I was astonished. You get a year of maternity where you are paid 80% of your salary - though you can split that between the mom and dad if you prefer.

People seem to think that we pay more taxes or have shitty doctors or wait a long time for things but I've never found any of that to be true. Our taxes are about 18% of a paycheque (if you make under $50,000) and goes up exponentially depending on your salary. As for sales tax on goods etc. in Alberta it is 5%.

The longest I've waited in an emergency room is about 8 hours and while that definitely felt long at the time, it was a non-life threatening cut that needed stitches - on a busy Friday night.

I've lived in several countries and any of them that I've needed medical attention in I've received fairly quickly and saw good doctors. Even when I was in Eastern Europe, I waited 1 hour, had an X-ray, an EKG and 2 shots all at the great cost of zero dollars.

I literally cannot wrap my head around the medical situation in the United States. I lived there for 2 months and bought the best insurance I could find, just in case. It's terrifying to me.

Anyway, I don't know exactly how it works up here, I just know I have great health coverage, am never worried about getting sick or accidents, breaking anything, or waiting too long for anything. I don't feel like the government controls my choices/doctors/medications. If that's socialism - count me in.


I'm with Jen. As a Canadian, (and a fellow Albertan!) I felt sick when I heard how much some people have to pay just to have a baby in the US. Or knowing people who aren't taking their cancer maintenance meds because they can't afford it? How is that acceptable? And the idea of becoming bankrupt because you get sick... it's like telling me you only play golf underwater- I just really can't understand it.

After watching the debate and hearing Mitt Romney speak, you'd think we'd have a horrible health care system but I've never had anything but great treatment (minus a slightly crazy doctor, but again- that's his personality not the fault of the system!). Growing up, I was never sick but my brother routinely got stitches and was in and out of the hospital and I have no idea how my parents would have dealt with the headache and fear of having a sick child AND hospital bills.

The longest I've waited in the hospital is six hours and again it wasn't for a life threatening injury. I've had surgeries before and they were scheduled within a month. My mom's longest wait was a month and a half for a major (but non life threatening) surgery. When I was diagnosed with Celiac's disease, I routinely saw my doctor for check ups and even had appointments with nutritionists scheduled for me so I could ask them questions.

In terms of mental health, I feel even more grateful to be living in a country where you aren't punished for requiring help. My work covers my prescriptions and therapist visits were also covered by my doctor. I know of people who didn't have benefits through work and the government covered their therapist fees. Again, if I felt like I had to pay a lot for getting the help I needed, I wonder how long I would have waited. And I wonder how much worse I would have felt.

Because I don't have to worry about a medical bill costing money, I don't panic when I do get sick. If I knew I'd have to pay large sums for treatment, I know I'd hold off in seeing a doctor until I couldn't wait a second longer, how does that help anyone?

I love so much about the States and am amazed at how much your country has accomplished yet I find myself flabbergasted that so many Americans have accepted their health care system as is- as though that's the only option. It's not. I can't imagine ever taking my wallet to the doctors office or even worrying about a medical bill. When you are sick- whether it's a serious or minor illness, the last thing you want is the worry of cost weighing on you. I'm far too familiar with American friends dealing with that and it breaks my heart. Hopefully people do some research and vote for the candidate who has the fortitude and vision to make health care more accessible to more people. (In my opinion, it's Obama by a landslide).


Canadian healthcare is excellent. I've never worried about getting sick or injured bankrupting me, or my not being able to get care because I couldn't afford it or didn't have insurance. It's just there, hospitals, doctors, walk-in clinics for off hours. Most good employers have extended coverage that covers most prescriptions, dental and a mix of eyewear, massage, Chiro etc. depending on the employer and the plan. My kids are covered, my retired parents are covered and I'm covered no matter what.


Another Canadian weighing in here! I think our Health Care System is one of the best parts of being Canadian. In Ontario, health care is free - I don't pay anything per month/per year, like Jen was saying. If I need to go to the doctor, I just make an appointment and go - and it's free. You get to choose your own doctor. If your doctor isn't available and it's something that needs to get dealt with that day, there are walk in clinics where you can go and see a doctor for free. Unless your workplace covers it, you do have to pay for prescriptions and extras like physiotherapy, chiropractic, dentists, etc. If something serious happens (i.e. cancer, major surgery, having a baby) - it's all covered. I've never had to worry about sacrificing my health because I can't afford something - and it makes me really, really sad that this is the case in the USA for many people. Yes, we have to pay income tax and sales tax, but I don't mind. I take great pride in living somewhere where when it comes to health care everyone is given the same treatment, regardless of income level.

So, there you have it. Canadian health care: (mostly) free and not crappy. Are you jealous now too? Because I'm still jealous.

I mean... remember how it cost me $700 to get four stitches in my elbow, because I was stupid and tried to run to my car in the rain while wearing flip-flops? In some places of the world, it would have cost me ZERO DOLLARS. Alas.

Speaking of health care... I need to squeeze in something about Planned Parenthood because they are a very important part of this discussion and yesterday's reproductive health discussion, but I felt that post was getting long and it was more relevant to my health care discussion anyway.

First of all, federal money does not fund abortions - it never has, it never will. What it DOES fund is health care for somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million people (men and women) who rely on Planned Parenthood's other services, not the least of which includes cancer screenings. In one of their recent campaigns, Planned Parenthood pointed out that for every $1 invested in Title X family planning, taxpayers save $3.74. Seems like a worthwhile investment to me, but I'm terrible with money. (This is for the people who base their "cut funding!" arguments on financial reasons, rather than ethical ones. Your financial reasons are bullshit, so you may as well admit to opposing this group for religious reasons. I'd respect you more for being honest.)

So, suppose Planned Parenthood funding does get cut. At least with "Obamacare" low-income women can still get preventive health care without having to scrape up a co-pay. But wait! We're going to get rid of that too. Effectively leaving NO options for the segment of the population who need these services the most. (And somewhat selfishly, I, for one, really enjoy not having to pay for my annual lady doctor visits. They're unpleasant enough as it is, without costing me a co-pay. The cost of co-pays really add up, to the point where I will avoid going to the doctor. And I have insurance.)

Anyway. Something to consider when you hit the polls on Tuesday (if you haven't already). Health care = good. Cheap health care = better. Barack Obama = not a socialist.

PS - don't forget to change your clocks back. I haven't done it yet because I'm lazy but I'm getting increasingly annoyed by the fact that it's technically 5:55pm even though my clocks say 6:55pm but either way it is PITCH BLACK outside and this displeases me greatly. Unless my computer already updated itself, which it probably did. HOLY SHIT WHAT TIME IS IT I DON'T EVEN KNOW.


chimes said...

brilliant. I love that you wrote this post with Canadian testimonials.

Matt broke his hand in France. He paid nothing (I believe) for surgery with one of the best hand surgeons in the world. He now plays acoustic guitar ALL DAY.

Steph A said...

Bleh... I don't know how i feel about this issue. It's so complicated. First of all we're massively, MAS.SIVE.LY in debt right now so it feels like a shitty time to be investing shitloads of money in people's health, as awful as that sounds. Second of all, we subsidize corn, which gets turned into shitty foods that make everyone sick, thus sending them to the doctor all the damn time. So that's fucking dumb. Also, i'm not sure how i feel about health care being a right vs. a privilege. It takes years to educate a doctor, which costs money, which i think warrants pretty high fees for their services. We have insurance for that, but now the govt. wants to meddle in their business and kind of make it really unprofitable, basically borking it. I don't know what the solution is for that; discounts for preventive measures and a different system altogether for preexisting conditions, maybe. There are treatments that don't even exist yet, but as soon as they do, people will feel entitled to them as though they were a right. That's just weird to think about. And there's the enormous issue that is the drug companies and their firm hold on the doctors' strings. People get bullshit prescriptions all the time because docs get their pockets padded for prescribing them, and it usually leads to side effects that require more and more drugs. We feel entitled to cures for diseases that we failed to prevent in the first place. I think taking care of yourself should win you a tax break. Why should the responsible people have to pay for the care of the irresponsible? Yet we should help out the underprivileged, BUT they have the absolute worst health because shitty food is so much cheaper than good food, and their lives are so much more stressful because they're poor. It's such a mess.

Stop subsidizing corn, start subsidizing healthy food, reward prevention somehow and make it cheaper, get the doctors interested in prevention... Getting everyone on health insurance is undoubtedly important, but our whole approach to health has got to change or it's just going to be too expensive.

chimes said...

Good points, Steph: "Stop subsidizing corn, start subsidizing healthy food, reward prevention somehow and make it cheaper, get the doctors interested in prevention... Getting everyone on health insurance is undoubtedly important, but our whole approach to health has got to change or it's just going to be too expensive."

It's true that we're probably spending more time going to the doctor because of our diet, which is something I Hadn't thought about before.

As well as the point about the bullshit prescriptions.

So yeah — in short, if we were in a perfect world, the healthcare plan would work like it's worked for Canada, France, etc. But I'm curious what the financial situation is in some of those countries.

JenBetweenDots said...

Steph- I just want to say that doctors in Canada are VERY well paid and they definitely don't get paid based on what prescriptions they push on people (in fact the idea of my doctor working on 'commission' from a drug company makes me shudder - I can't imagine that EVER being a good thing). It is not unprofitable to be a doctor in Canada - otherwise people would never pay the money to go through all the schooling.

Also, when you say people will feel entitled to treatments 'as if they were a right' - aren't they? Don't people have the right to be healthy?

It isn't about responsible people paying for the health care of the irresponsible. Do only irresponsible people get cancer? Brain tumors? Strokes? Alzheimers?

Chimes, as for the 'financial situation' in Canada - we are in a heck of a lot less debt than the US. Average median income is pretty high, unemployment is relatively low.

I'm not saying our system is perfect, or that everyone should run their healthcare etc. like ours, but I truly believe that you guys have it so rough with the amount of money you pay for things like stitches ($600 for stitches?!?!!? What if you're a single mom and your kid falls while running around on the playground with his buddies?)

I also don't agree that it's 'fair' that the people who will abuse the system are people who are doing it to themselves (eating poorly, smoking etc.) but then again, obesity is not such an epidemic in Canada (or France...) and part of me thinks it's because people DO go to doctors regularly and are taught about being healthy from a young age. Even 'poor' kids go to the doctor regularly. It's not a point of stress for anyone.

Yes, teaching doctors to teach prevention, subsidizing healthy food (instead of making ramen noodles and pop and chips the cheapest foods!), absolutely, I agree with. I think Americans need to really think about it though - if your grandmother can't afford health care and suddenly she falls and breaks her hip - then what? She catches pneumonia (as most elderly people who break bones do) and all of a sudden the bills are astronomical, Grandma can't pay them and her family is left with her debt? I just don't understand how anyone can think this is a good system. I try, but I really cannot understand it.

Steph A said...

I'm not saying i think we have a good system. But i don't think our government can afford to foot the bill for everyone's health care right now, especially since the health of the average American is so very poor. That's not what Obamacare even is, though. It's largely about getting everyone health insurance, which is the bare minimum we can do to help everyone but will be expensive enough.

Jen, you asked "Do only irresponsible people get cancer? Brain tumors? Strokes? Alzheimers?" All of those things are preventable to a large degree. If you take care of your health every day, you're much less likely to get any one of those ailments. I concede, though, that it's not just about being responsible, it's about being well informed and having access to preventive measures as well. Taking care of yourself can be expensive, but it also takes effort every single day, and not many Americans make it a priority.

And yeah, i'm just still unsure about whether health care is a right. I'd like to hear this one hashed out sometime. If a drug could extend a person's life 100%, would they be entitled to it? Wouldn't everyone living twice as long put a major strain on our natural resources and lower the quality of life for everyone? 'Cause basically, that's what we're doing. Health care keeps us from dying for as long as possible. That's all it is when you get right down to it. We have a right to life (once we've been born, of course), but do we have a right to the longest life that all of the world's most cutting-edge medical advances can get us? I'm just not so sure i'd say yes to that.

Terra said...

Love this, lady. I just get so, so frustrated when I think about the countries we lump ourselves in with when we refuse to have a national health care system. Awesome! We're like Iraq! and other places we hate! Not at all like our friend countries - Canada, Sweden, UK, EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE WESTERN WORLD.