Article by Betsy Clairsse, The Advocate
Regarding Dixie McIlwraith’s letter on June 26, I submit a different perspective on the Canadian health care system.
I’m an American citizen, but my family lived in both Nova Scotia and Ontario due to my husband’s job. Many Americans have an unrealistic expectation of what “free” health care provides. Vision, dental, mental health, home visit services and prescriptions are not covered. In both Nova Scotia and Ontario, there are no nurses or assistants at the doctor’s office. For five years, no one checked my vitals or weighed me unless I asked. There is a receptionist and a doctor, and that’s it.
It’s true that Canada does not discriminate based on preexisting conditions IF you are already a citizen. But, there is a list of conditions that will prevent you from moving there. It’s true that no one has to decide if they can afford a procedure or test, only if they can afford to wait. Our experience in Nova Scotia and Ontario is this: a friend diagnosed with breast cancer but waiting three months for treatment to start; a neighbor’s son had a seizure and an MRI was ordered, but the next available appointment was seven months away; a co-worker needing a triple bypass was on a two-year waiting list.
A Google search will show these are not exceptions but common occurrences. When McIlwraith states that Canada will send a citizen out of the country to receive care, one must keep in mind that over 85 percent of the Canadian population live within 100 miles of the U.S. border, so where do you suppose they go to receive this care? Prime Minister Chrétien, Liberal MP Stronach, Quebec Premier Bourassa and Labrador Premier Williams have all traveled to the U.S. for medical care. If the Canadian system were exceptional, or even acceptable, one would question the need for this. Canada also has a doctor shortage. In Ontario, roughly 12 percent of the population cannot find a family doctor. In Nova Scotia, there is a lottery system in place to fill appointments as they become available. The Canadian system works in part because the American system is available to them. Keep in mind that Canada does not reciprocate this advantage to Americans because hospitals and doctors’ offices are not equipped to accept cash.
The U.S. “medical tourism” to Canada is limited to cheaper prescription drugs and medical marijuana, not actual procedures or tests. If the U.S. adopts a similar universal program, Canadians would not have the same access as they currently enjoy. I realize our current system is severely flawed, but Americans need to understand exactly what a “free universal” system provides, and what it doesn’t.