Public Health Care


I'm currently taking a Political Science course for my nursing degree that focuses on health care politics in Canada. One of the aspects is of course learning the different types of health care systems: public, private, and out of pocket. I was recommended the Michael Moore documentary called, Sicko. He criticizes the US way of health care via private health care system and compares it to other countries with public like Canada, Britain, France and even Cuba (the US is the only industrialized country without public/universale health care).

What are your thoughts on this? Of course in Canada we have higher taxes and longer waiting periods for surgeries, etc. but it's free. I don't have to check my bank account before I make an appointment with my doctor. I feel very fortunate to live in a country where I can get the medical attention I need and not have to worry about my insurance rejecting my claim and having to pay out of my own pocket.

I'm sure some of what he says in the movie is exaggerated. It's easy to pick and choose what stories to broadcast. But Canadians do have better health indicators than the US, even though the US has a higher number of doctors. I'm interested in people's opionions about this!

If you're not sure what your stance on this subject is, I do recommend watching Sicko. He explains how both systems work very well. However, keep in mind that the situations he portrays aren't true in EVERY situation but are common.  
Oct 18, 2011 @ 01:13 pm

6 Replies


I agree with you

I have to agree that Canada's universal health care is better in comparison to US's private health care. I think the chances of people who will need to visit the doctor/hospital more might be people living in poverty due to the fact that their quality of life is lower, ie, food, living environment, education, etc. People living in poverty will not be able to afford health care so the system here is really beneficial.

I think the problem is that more funds should go towards the health care system in Canada. I'm not going to go into politics but with more funds, hospitals will be able to hire more nurses, doctors, have better technology and facilities, etc.

However, we do pay for health care through taxes so I wouldn't say it's free :)
Oct 18, 2011 @ 04:16 pm

So lucky to live in Canada

I couldnt imagine having to deal with the US system. I have had an autoimmune disease for over 20 years and with their system we would be bankrupt (even if I could get medical insurance). The $121 a month my family pays for MSP (provincial medical service) is a tiny fraction of what I actually use. And having an employer subsidized prescription plan helps further.

Increased medical funding should be a priority not only for improving current services but for the predicted strain the aging population may cause.
Oct 19, 2011 @ 05:44 pm

There are still changes that need to be made

I'm currently taking a course called "Future of Health Care" and we've had very rich discussions in class about the current state of the Canadian Health Care System. Our system is considered one of the better health care systems but we've seen how there are still many challenges in terms of sustainability and funding. Because it is considered a Universal Health Care System, funding for our health care comes from taxation. However, there's going to be increased demand on the system in the future due to the baby-boom population and our health expenditure will continue to increase. The only way we can sustain the system is to increase taxation and there will come a point when this will disadvantage those of lower socioeconomic status since more of their income will go to taxation.

We were given a project to come up with possible solutions to the problems our Health Care System is facing and some of the suggestions were:

Modernizing the Canada Health Act - make it more tailored to today's society
Gradient Taxation - higher taxation for those in the higher income brackets (which are already being implemented in European countries who have a better health care system than us)
Introduce Private Health Care - increase competition, increased purchase of private health insurance which would decrease public health care expenditure, give people more treatment options
Focus on Health Promotion and Prevention - If we can prevent someone from getting sick in the first place, then they won't need to use health care services, decreasing demand on the system

I think the last suggestion should receive greater focus because a lot of the conditions for high hospital users are chronic conditions which are preventable. By keeping Canadians healthier, they don't need to visit doctors/ health care providers as often and won't use as much of our health care dollars. It's just unfortunate that the Ministry of Health Promotion are Sports are being dissolved.
Nov 12, 2011 @ 07:13 pm

my two cents

I have lived in Canada, Europe, and USA, so I have seen a lot of different systems. Before I get into that, I also want to say that I've seen Sicko as well as some of Michael Moore's other documentaries. I just want to add a word of caution that his material is biased and there is some sensationalism there, just like many other similar soap box documentaries out there. While I enjoy watching them because I think it's important to see different sides of every debate, I take what I see with a grain of salt because I know that these (just like most every news source you read/watch/hear) has a bias and an agenda.

So here's my 2 cents on the differences in medical care. In short, if you are well-to-do, you are better off living in the US. If you are middle class or low income, you are better off living in Canada/Europe.

Here's why. In the US, you can get access to great docs with in-house labs (and in many cases, x-ray/ultrasound/etc machines) very quickly.

I was pregnant and gave birth to 2 of my children in Canada and had to go from doctor to independent lab to the hospital, in each case having to make appointments several days or weeks or even months in advance, depending on the nature of my need.

With baby #3, I was pregnant when we arrived in the US so my first introductory visit with my new OB, he offered to right away go ahead and take care of my labwork and ultrasound right then and there. It's a larger practice with a full patient load, but yet I was able to get everything taken care of within an hour or so. I also got my lab results back immediately (except for the cultures, which I heard back within a few days). The clinic was spotless and modern. My former OB in Canada had a nice practice, but everything looked dated and she certainly didn't have her own lab techs/machinery.

Yes, we have to pay through the nose for our medical costs; however, our taxes are much lower. My husband and I did the math and realized that we are just about dead even with what we would be paying in Canada with the higher tax rate. It just feels like it hurts more here since you always have to pay deductibles and your monthly premiums out of pocket.

By the way, there are also no shortages of GPs, dentists, orthopedists, etc etc etc in my area. My mom had to wait weeks to get into a GP in her Canadian city, while my sister couldn't get ANYBODY where she lives.

HOWEVER, if you do not have medical insurance in the US, it is incredibly difficult to pay out of pocket for doctor visits. I know of someone who was self employed (a plumber) and opted not to get health insurance for reasons I don't know. He's a single dad of 4 and was diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago. At that time insurance companies were permitted to deny coverage if you came to them with a pre-existing condition, so this guy was completely out of options. As he had earned too well in previous years (and continued to earn since he had a family to feed), he was ineligible for Medicare/Medicaid and was trying to raise funds for his chemotherapy via hotdog fundraisers and private donations.

In the US, if you fall below a certain income level, you will qualify for Medicaid so the very poor are taken care of - BUT not every doctor accepts Medicaid patients. This creates a class system. In Canada this is not an issue.

What frustrates me about the Canadian system is the lack of access to prompt, high quality health care in every market. One elderly relative of mine had to sleep on a cot in a hospital corridor while he waited for a room. Another relative could not get timely access to a specialist, which I believe contributed to his eventual death. I could cite several other examples of where the Canadian system has failed.

But when people ask me which is better, I do have to say that the Canadian system is my preference. I cannot accept a system where people fall through the cracks because I see my children's classmates here in the US falling through these cracks. Children whose parents ARE BOTH working 2 jobs and still not able to pay their insurance premiums. However, it's definitely true that Canada needs to perfect their system. It's unacceptable for people to have to wait for 2 years for a knee replacement. Some might say "it's not life or death", but they are not the people who are bound to a walker or wheelchair and seeing their quality of life dwindle to a pathetic existence.

Sad all around... and now I'm stepping back from the pulpit :)
Jun 04, 2012 @ 11:10 am
Ali de Bold

Great info

I really like this thread because there is a lot of fantastic information here. Mamaluv, thanks especially for your perspective since you have so much experience. I watched Sicko too and found it extremely disturbing.

I don't think you should ever have to sell hotdogs to get cancer treatment. That is so messed up.
Jun 04, 2012 @ 11:43 am


@charmheart16 - we did something similar later in the class, only it was a discussion. I definitely agree that a focus on health promotion and prevention is a main area to focus on as there is research to support that this approach is more cost effective (preventing the disease as opposed to treating the disease, which may be a lifelong chronic condition, ie, diabetes).

Each health care system has their flaws and also their benefits. My mom is American and my husband and I have thought about moving to the US at some point since I have dual citizenship. But I really don't think I want to work in their health care system. I don't want to have to deny care to patients or bug them about payment while they're trying to recover from surgery, illness, etc. That's just added stress. Plus, I have rheumatoid arthritis so I'm sure we'd have high premiums for our insurance in the States.

In a few provinces, they have moved to speed up wait times for knee, hip and cataract surgery. If in 6 months you have not received the surgery in your region, you can elect to have the surgery performed elsewhere (in a private facility, potentially in another region) and the cost will still be covered. However, provinces are not required to comply with such benchmarks and some choose not to. Provinces that feel they have limited capacity may be less willing to sign on to this as some political pressures can arise if they do not compare well to other provinces and stick which doing things their own way.

It is frustrating that even waiting for a bed can be so difficult in Canada. A suggestion would be to provide more funding for home care (even subsidize those who don't have insurance that will cover it) as this would free up many beds in hospital that really don't NEED to be filled - such as with someone who only needs assistance with bathing and other daily activities. Getting these people home quickly and providing home care where necessary is more cost effective than keeping them in an expensive hospital.

There's no such this as a perfect system and we have some improvements that can be made. I hope health care providers, policy makers, and government officials can come together to make the best system for Canadians as possible.

Jun 04, 2012 @ 01:23 pm

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