On the weekend I had a chance to see Michael Moores movie Sicko. Sicko as everyone no knows is a documentary that looks at some people that are on underinsured health plans and compares them to regular folk in other countries. I am a Canadian so I can answer a little to the Canadian experience but of course I do not know much about the other countries that Michael Moore went to.
First of all in Canada it is important to know that the federal government sets up rules as to what kind of care needs to be accessible to everyone in the country, this is known as the Canada Health Act. Care is not actually delivered by the federal government but instead is delivered by provincial governments across the country. This is where the fighting goes on with the provinces saying that the federal government does not give enough money and the Federal government mandating services that the provinces must provide. The system is huge and although there is a level of bureaucracy, I have always heard that the amount is very small on a per capita basis compared to the US, also of course the system is not for profit since it is run by the two levels of government…I am sure though that some money filters out through slippery hands though.
Anyway that is how Canada funds our socialized health care system, how about the care itself? In Canada you can choose your doctor and my family doctor will get me in on the same day if I have a real problem or a few days later if I just have some aches and pains I want to talk with him about. If there is a real emergency there are many walk in clinics around the city that I can go to instead of my family doctor where the wait would be 30 minutes to an hour. For real emergencies like stitches or broken bones you need to go to a hospital and the wait times in the emergency room of the hospital can be bad with people waiting up to 12hours for treatment. This is a horrible reality across Canada with levels of government working to address the problem. The other problem is with MRI or other specialized treatment which can have long wait times as well of up to a few months. Almost no one dies to my knowledge from waiting for treatment but it is bad in some cases having to wait a long time for surgery or for testing.
Cost is one issue that is always swept under the rug for Canadian health care. Even though the standard of care in universal, almost all provinces have no monthly premiums for health care except unbelievably Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, these are the three richest provinces in Canada and are also the only places where people pay a monthly health care premium. The premiums are about $20-$55 per person per month.
The Canada Health Act and the provinces do not cover prescriptions, eyeglasses or dental care but most everything else is covered including childbirth and even vasectomies as well as other day surgeries.
In talking to most Canadians you will find that most people are in favor of the system that we have. People always want to see better service but that of course would cost more money. The way that we in Canada really see the difference between our system and the American system is really seen when you go to the dentist. It costs a fortune to get a filling but if you get hit by a car and need surgery you pay nothing. So after watching Sicko I must say that Michael Moore may have exaggerated a little on the speed of service and coverage that Canadians get for health care but it was pretty well on the mark. I would love to see how the Brits, Cubans and the French feel about the way that their health care systems were profiled.