Wednesday, June 23, 2004

No health coverage!?

Recently I had friends visiting from Canada. Almost the first question they asked me was, "Do you really have people in the States with no health coverage? We hear that on television, but can it be true?"

I was amazed by the question because worrying about health coverage is one of the major problems in America today, and that reality we take for granted. Not only do we have uninsured people, but we have MILLIONS of uninsured people. I explained the whole system, and I want to tell you, when you hear yourself try to explain our system to outsiders who haven't lived with the worry of healthcare costs over their heads, you end up sounding to yourself like a citizen of some barbarous state.

I also quizzed them on their experiences in the Canadian system, and compared the two provinces I know about now, Ontario and Alberta, and apparently both provinces have an excellent word-of-mouth reputation. My relatives in Ontario tell me that they don't have long waits, they do have good care and they are satisfied. My visitors from Alberta tell me they have health care they are proud of, and they are scandalized by our system now that they know about it. A major concern was drug costs. Canadians know that lots of Americans have been buying their prescription drugs in Canada, and my visitors wondered why, and how the prices compare, and how we pay for drugs. Again...to have to say that some of our people have to chose heat over medicine, or medicine over food, or medicine over heat and rent, was very embarrassing.

Perhaps we should all take a long look from a distance at our healthcare system, as if we were foreign visitors, and then would we still think that the profit motive and the free enterprise ideal should be the way to treat the healthcare needs of our fellow citizens? Can our perception that the Canadian system is bankrupting the country, and that the care in Canada is less than it should be, be a product of clever drug and healthcare companies lobbying and advertising? Are these large corporations afraid that a national healthcare plan would really be detrimental, not so much to the populace as to their profits?

Footnote: Is this why all the Canadians and the Europeans who visit here seem to enjoy the time they are on vacation? They are not worried about getting sick "out-of-network"?

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