The Misinformation About the Canadian Health Care System
For the past few days I have watched misinformation being bantered about in reference to the Canadian Health Care System. This article is not intended to sway anyone in the US on either side of the issue, but rather to set the record straight, as I see it.
The Republicans claim that the Obama Administration is trying to introduce a Canadian Style Health Care System. There are ads that claims that there are lotteries for doctors, long waiting lists, and the control over drugs that can be used.
While this may be true in some jurisdictions, I don't believe it to be true as a carde blanche rule. In some cases, where drug plans are available, doctors may be encouraged to prescribe generic drugs, but the patient always has the choice to go with the original if he/she is willing to pay for it.
From my perspective, the Administration's Health Care Plan is nowhere anything near what we have in Canada. Canada's Health Care is not operated as a National Health Care System, even though it is mandated under the Canada Health Act.
Jurisdictions in Canada (Provinces and Territories) are mandated to provide basic health care under the Canada Health Act. Each province provides its own health care. What that means is that when u move to another Province or Territory in Canada, you have to apply to be covered by that jurisdiction and there is normally a three months waiting period before you are covered by your new Province or Territory. The previous jurisdiction has to cover you during this waiting period.
For example, if I visit Manitoba, my Alberta health card is no good to me there should I have to visit a doctor. I have to claim those expenses once I return to Alberta and I will get reimbursed at the rate that Alberta provides for this procedure, as long as it is below Manitoba's rates. . That is why most Canadians will purchase supplementary insurance or travel insurance to cover any additional costs.
Some provinces have a drug plan, Alberta does not, except for Seniors, who are entitled to free Blue Cross coverage when they turn 65. Presently they pay roughly $25 for each prescription. This will soon change, since there will be a graduated plan, based on Seniors income.
Until recently, Alberta collected a $64 health care premium for each person. Employers normally covered half. Some jurisdictions collect a premium, while others don't. Many Canadians carry supplementary insurance to cover pharmaceuticals, ambulance service and some medical supplies.
For the most part, our Health Care Plans work well for the public. Is the system perfect? No, but neither are private plans in the US. Most waiting periods referred to are for elective surgery and non emergency MRIs or CT scans. In Alberta I have not heard of too many horror stories regarding this.
My doctor can order any lab work he deems necessary to diagnose me or to monitor me. The myth that he is being controlled by the province is just that. In the Alberta Health Region they also maintain electronic health records.
Drugs are readily available as required. In fact, for the most part, we pay less for the same drugs that are sold in the United States because our government negotiated drug prices. Thus a lot of American Seniors have used on line pharmacies or buses to Canada to get these cheaper drugs.
At the University of Alberta a lot of research is being done especially as far as cancer, cardiology and diabetes. We believe we have the best researchers doing good work in that institution. Much of that research is funded by the government.
Are there problems with the system? Of course, governments must set budget priorities and as such they determine what they cover above and beyond what is mandated by the Canada Health Act.
There is also a doctor shortage, in Alberta, mostly in rural areas. In Redwater all three doctors are from South Africa. I believe they are doing a great job as General Practicioners. Accessibility to Specialists is not a problem. The difference here is that you need the GPs referral. Personally, I have never waited very long for an appointment.
Recently I requested an MRI (non emergency), the appointment was within ten days. I had to cancel and reschedule and was told by some it would take a long time. Not so, I was rescheduled within a week.
In summary, while not perfect, the the Canadian Health Care System works for most Canadians. Decisions by governments on coverage and infrastructure does affect it. I think so will decisions by private providers who have to make a profit and are accountable to their stockholders.