Universal Health Care – What It’s Like

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about the ways that I feel we are costing each other money. I discussed how people who did not practice good hand hygiene cost tax payers a lot of money by taking up hospital beds; this is the case in Canada, where we don't have to pay for healthcare out-of-pocket, but of course the individual cost of illness is much higher for an American.

In the comments, two people asked what it's like living with universal healthcare (Holly from Club Thrifty and the blogger behind Life [Comma] Etc).

I love when my readers give me post ideas.

Please do NOT use this post as a debate ground as to which is better! This is meant to be a glimpse into universal healthcare from a day-to-day, realistic perspective. I don't really care if you don't like the idea of it & you are an American. Sorry. 🙂 Haha.

Anyway, lets start out with housekeeping things about having universal healthcare:

It's Not Free

I have to start out by saying that universal healthcare is not free. There's a funny misconception that universal healthcare is completely free for those who are lucky enough to have it.

It's not.

As Canadians, we don't have to shell out thousands of dollars when we break a leg, but we do pay for our healthcare system, mostly when we file taxes every year.

While I can walk into a doctor, emergency room, or even maternity center to have a baby and not have to stop at a cash register or bankrupt my family because of it, we pay a heavy premium for having the amazing benefits of universal healthcare (and, just generally being lucky enough to live in Canada). Taxes in Canada are, in general, substantially higher than those in the States. It might not be as outright obvious; you may not pay less income tax than I do, however, it's pushed onto businesses, who push it onto consumers, in the form of much, much higher prices.

Gas, cheese, dairy, and pretty much every consumer good out there will prove this when price comparing between the two countries.

We also have a little thing called MSP. Medical Services Plan is a monthly bill that each adult Canadian (just kidding, I'm told it's just BC peeps) citizen must pay if they make over a certain amount of money each year.

MSP is like a tax; you pay either more or less depending on your income and abilities.

Most employers pay for MSP. I've never, ever had to pay it. The only time I would have had to, I didn't make enough money for the government to bug me about it.

The boy pays MSP and it's about $40/month.

What's Covered Under Universal Health Care?

Contrary to popular belief, we do still have to pay for some healthcare. Just not most.

Some things that aren't, for instance, covered under universal healthcare are ental work (unless it's an emergency and threatens your health. Ex: broken jaw), most prescriptions, eye exams/eye care (glasses, contacts, etc), chiropractic services, and some other non-urgent services.

For example, my boyfriend a couple of years ago knocked his two front teeth out. He needed a bone graft and a bridge, with a crown. He was in a lot of pain, and had to go to an emergency dentist, but we had to pay the $4,000 bill out of pocket.

What It's Like Having Universal Health Care

Here's a realistic scenario for you, if you are a visual/story person.

And this is completely hypothetical, it's not actually happening any time soon.

I find out I'm pregnant. I pee on a stick but that isn't reliable enough so I hop into my car, drive to the walk-in clinic where I wait for half an hour for a doctor to call me in to see me. He does a test, confirms my pregnancy, congratulates me, and refers me to an OBGYN (if I don't have one already). I thank him, and leave the clinic (without stopping at the front desk to pay). 

I get back in my car, drive home, and tell my spouse. He is thrilled and we phone the OBGYN right away to make an appointment. We go to the OBGYN, who tells us all about the vitamins I should be taking, tells us how far along I am and discusses any risks (family risks, etc). We book a date for the first ultrasound and we leave, without stopping at the front desk to pay. 

A few weeks rolls by, and we are ready for our first ultrasound appointment! We go to the appointment, and they do the ultrasound. Everything looks good; the baby is fine. The heartbeat is confirmed and the pregnancy is checked for viability. We are lucky enough to have a OBGYN that gives the ultrasound photos out for free, but some don't. We take those home, without stopping at the front desk to pay for the visit. 

Repeat this process for our second ultrasound a couple of months later. We find out what gender we are having! We are congratulated again, and we leave without paying. 

I'm 7 months pregnant and I am having complications and I go to the doctor, who tells me I shouldn't be at work and that I should go on a medical leave. The doctor writes me a note (for free) and I bring it into my workplace. I leave the doctors office without paying. The doctor gives me a prescription for medication. I stop at the pharmacy on my way back and pick up my prescription, which costs $40. 

While I'm at home, at 8 months pregnant, I begin to have what I think are Braxton Hicks. My spouse brings me to the hospital in case they might be contractions. They turn out to be a false alarm, but because of my earlier complications I am kept at the hospital for observation and bed rest for 4 nights (5 days). I go home after being cleared to go home, with orders to stay on bed rest. We leave the hospital (without stopping at the front desk to pay). 

Finally, 4 days before my due date, the baby decides to come. We go to the hospital, and in pain (of course), they give me an epidural. After hours of labor, we deliver the baby, (who is healthy!) and stay for two nights. We leave two days later, without stopping at the front desk to pay. 

We take our new baby home without ever receiving a bill in the mail. 

Are you with me? So, basically, it's just covered. If the baby gets sick in a few weeks, we take it to the doctor - covered. Medication? No. Not usually. If I needed a C-Section, it would still be covered. Pitocin in the hospital? Covered.

Common Misconceptions

I'll admit that I'm not a complete expert when it comes to universal healthcare, but I have heard some silly things that people from countries without it have to say about it.

  • I've heard people say that countries with universal healthcare can't afford the technology necessary to provide the services needed. Not true. We have some of the most cutting-edge technology in healthcare.
  • The wait times in Canada can be way longer than the wait times for procedures in the States. True. Some services, like some surgeries, can take months - years, even - to get to the top of the wait list for. Urgent surgeries are always right away, but if it's not urgent or an emergency you may be waiting for awhile.
  • I've heard some people's thoughts that quality is sacrificed with universal healthcare. Not true. In my research, I found that the quality of healthcare in the states vs. in Canada is comparable. I have even heard the quality is better in Canada because the health care workers aren't worried about the clinic's or hospital's bottom line.
  • I've heard an argument that with universal healthcare, the doctors don't try to "up sell" or cash grab. This is not true. Canadian doctors may not up sell services, however, they can have the tendency to over-prescribe, as they are still paid a commission by pharmaceutical   companies to prescribe their products. It's probably just not as bad in Canada.

So, Really..

At the end of the day, as younger Canadians, we do have to pay higher taxes to take care of the senior or unhealthy Canadians that cost our system more. However, one day when we are in that boat, it will be paid for with us, as well. And, really, I've never been to a hospital, seen a sickly child, and thought about how stupid it was that I had to pay for his or her medical care in my taxes.

However, like all countries around the world, doctors do make mistakes in various scenarios like performing surgeries. If this is the case you should file for a claim with your local surgical malpractice lawyers, or any lawyer that practices in the area of injury you or a loved one has experienced.

Questions? Arguments? Concerns? 


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76 thoughts on “Universal Health Care – What It’s Like

  1. Being a fellow Canadian, I do like having universal health care. That being said - not everything is covered. A naturopath isn't covered by OHIP and I have some other issues I've had to shell out a fair amount of money for. Still - it'd be far more if we didn't have the health care. Great post!

    1. Very interesting! Thanks so much! Very interesting to hear Canadian's perspectives on universal healthcare. I feel like my perception is very skewed since I am a nurse in the United States......I wouldn't even know where to start.

  2. I'd add that the basics are covered (in your example, if you want a private or semi-private hospital room, you'd have to pay, but a ward room would be free). Physio, chiropractor, etc. aren't usually covered, but the details vary from province to province. Non-urgent surgery, etc. can be slow, but if it's critical, you'll get in fast.

    I think our system is really good. During the health care debates in the US, I couldn't understand how anyone could justify not having health care.

  3. I've never used the Canadian health care system, but did use the British health system while I was living there for a bit. Maybe it was because I was not in a major city, but you couldn't really get appointments until the day of- you just had to show up in the morning and hope they could book you an appointment for that day. And if the doctor's office wasn't near you, then it was an extra PITA as you had to physically be there to get an appointment, no appointments by phone.

    Hopefully it's changed since then, but at the time it was SUPER inconvenient.

    1. Post author

      Hmm. It's not like that in Canada.. we have walk - in clinics for those people who don't want to make appointments, but you can visit a doctors office with an appointment if you want to.

  4. We don't have MSP here in New Brunswick either. Or maybe we do and my employer takes care of it. I love your example of the universal care principal at work. When I broke my wrist last summer I was so, so happy for universal care, it would have flattened me financially if I had been in the states. It's one of my favourite things about living in Canada.

  5. Hailey

    Your hypothetical example is very accurate.
    I do agree that we pay via taxes for our health care, but I am also a big proponent for being active in your health care.

    For example, my mom requires hip surgery, and she lives in Saskatchewan... if she just went on the generic wait list, it would be a year wait. But, she asked her doctors what her other options were, talked to her insurance company and found out that she could have the surgery in 1 month in Vancouver with an insurance-approved doctor. Now, she's heading there in 1 week to have her hip surgery! And, it's all paid for (even 50% of her flight costs are covered).

    I definitely say be proactive in your health care and the great thing about Canadian health care is that you can get to know your doctors and nurses and form a relationship with them. I still know my childhood doctor and I feel very comfortable asking my current doctor any questions and chit chatting to build that trust and personable service.

  6. Thanks for the awesome insight! I didn't realize some people still had to pay a monthly "premium" for coverage...that seems a little silly. Overall it sounds like a decent system. The major disadvantage is that it takes forever to get in for some surgeries. That's the biggest complaint I've heard. If only there was a way to merge our systems and find something that was flawless.

    1. Post author

      Well, not all people have to pay it (in fact, I'd say most of us don't), and apparently that's only in BC (I was wrong). But think about it - even if you add that $30 cost up per month for somebody that by chance does have to pay it, it's still far, far, far cheaper in a year than if you got sick in the US just once, or had a baby (you'd have to pay into MSP for years, and years..and years to make it equivalent, if it ever gets there). It depends on the surgery, really. If it's urgent, you get in right away.

      1. Evelyn

        I have family in other provinces who are astonished that we have to make payments to MSP, and insist that "We don't have to pay anything". Not so. The "premium" is simply buried in their provincial taxes.

  7. This is such a great post! I always hear so many misconceptions and incorrect statements of universal healthcare. It's nice to see someone lay it out so clearly.

    As a fellow Canadian, one of my favourite things about having universal health care is just that I can simply get anything checked out any time, for free. As in, say I had a mole that looked about 99% fine, but it was new, and I was worried it was a little weird. Obviously I'd just go schedule an appointment with my GP and have it checked out. But if I was totally broke at the time and would have had to pay out of pocket, or even a $40 copay, for something that was "probably nothing," I might not have. And that's not good!

    Oh, and universal health care in Canada is provincial, which is why people are commenting that they don't pay MSP. It's a BC thing. In Ontario, it's part of our taxes, annually, I think. It's between $300 and $900 a year, and only the super rich pay $900. You have to make over $45,000 to even pay the $300, I think. I've never paid it. I like to think if I'm ever lucky enough to be super rich I'd happily pay out the $900 so past me can have awesome access to health care.

    And just another note about wait times. In Ontario at least, I'd probably call that a "sort of true." It's true that if you're waiting for something non-urgent, like a knee replacement, it can take months. (Never heard of years, though.) But if it's super urgent and life threatening, like that weird mole turned out to be weird and you need it biopsied/removed because it could be cancer, they'll get you in like, tomorrow. That's been my experience, anyway. I also don't find ER wait times too ridiculous, either, because it's all based on triage. Once I sprained my ankle, and I had to wait about six hours, because that's pretty non-urgent. The only other time I've been to the ER was because half my face was starting to go pins and needles, and they checked me out pretty much right away! Haha. (Turned out to be an allergic reaction.)

    And to add to your list of misconceptions: I've heard a lot that "with socialized medicine like in Canada, the government tells you what doctor you can see, and you don't get to pick." Completely untrue, of course. I can go to any doctor I want and change at any time.

    Of course the health care system in Canada does still have its flaws (wait times, doctor shortage, lack of coverage for high-cost prescriptions), but overall, I'm grateful to have it.

    1. Post author

      I love being able to just get things checked, whenever. If I feel tired and think I might be getting sick, I can pop into the walk in and get some preventative measures!

      Ahh thanks for that. I think we all end up paying somehow or other, so I guess MSP is our thing and everyone else has something else. I'm ok with paying it too - I don't HAVE to yet, but when i do and i I had to (my employer pays), I'd be ok.

      I think you are completely right about wait times. My uncle had a life threatening brain aneurysm, though, and he had to wait months for the surgery. I knew somebody who had a "non urgent" slipped disk in her back and she had to wait 2 years for her surgery. But then if it's an emergency, they'll get you in right away.

      Oh..that's odd I've never heard that! Yeah, completely untrue. We can definitely pick our doctors.. for instance, I'd prefer a female doctor and a female doctor I will have! (Because I chose her).

      1. Oh wow, two YEARS? That's terrible! I've never heard of something like that, though I don't doubt it happens.

        In general, though, I still think people tend to get hung up on the exceptional cases of outrageous wait times, when the average person has a much more reasonable wait, if at all.

  8. Sooooo interesting! Thank you for sharing!

    It is obvious that there are pros and cons... though even as an American it looks like you have more pros right now.

    I randomly stabbed myself with a guitar string back in December - after prescriptions, emergency visits,and a hospital stay I am still paying off the +$1600 out of pocket. And I was not very pleased with my services.

  9. Interesting to read how it works. I rarely go to the doctor but have health insurance if I ever have to down here in the US. It would be pretty cool to not have to pay on the way out but I bet there are some (like in any case) that abuse the system.

    1. The only abuse that I am aware of, in Vancouver, is seniors from Washington state coming for surgeries that they were somehow getting covered under medicare which shouldn't have been. It's something that the border guards look out for... honestly.
      I'm curious, like Daisy, how one would abuse the system? When you're sick/injured, you get medical attention. You have to pay for prescriptions, unless you're hospitalized, which is the only thing I could think of as an abuse of the system.

  10. Wow - very, very interesting. I'm "one of those Americans" so I had no idea how it actually worked (although I experienced some of the higher prices when I visited your fine country last year...). I've always operated under the assumption that someone has to pay for it, but I didn't know that it wasn't all covered and couldn't imagine waiting years for an operation... that's a "cost" if you ask me.

    1. Post author

      All of the basics, and all of the urgent or necessary medical things are covered. The "nice to have" things aren't. Because if they were, I'd be at massage therapy every day before work 😉

      I knew I shouldn't have mentioned the surgery thing. I think most American nay-sayers will use that point to write off the system. If your life is threatened, there is no wait. And if you have insurance, it's quicker (see a comment above). And the wait isn't usually all that long unless the surgery isn't all that important. And, frankly, I'm sure 90% of Americans have to wait for surgeries, anyway, 'cause they have to save up for them. So I don't see it as being a "cost", really.

  11. SP

    That's pretty interesting! I think the american system can be very good if you happen to have really good insurance and $25-$40 copays aren't going to break the budget. that is my situation, and I never have issues with health insurance. i usually just go in for my yearly check-ups (which are free). Dental and vision are partially covered.

    i wonder how much having a baby here would be. The doctors appointments (for me) would be cheap, but I have no idea what the hospital stay & birth would come out to!

    However, it can be an extremely unfair system and tied to our jobs - and I'm all for universal health care. Stories of medical bankruptcy are far from the norm, but a lot of uninsured people just can't get the preventative care, and it drives up costs overall.

    1. Don't quote me on this, but I think I've read that in the States the cost of an uncomplicated natural birth is something like $8,000, and an uncomplicated c-section birth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $18,000. That's not counting any appointments/ultrasounds/medication/etc. required during pregnancy.

      I can't remember where I read that, so take my guess with a grain of salt, but I think it was in the NYT. (Either way, didn't just make it up. Promise!)

  12. It's important to note that there are many different ways to get to universal health care, and different countries make different trade-offs in order to keep costs down (in Japan, they pay the doctors next to nothing, for example). Canada has single-payer insurance which keeps costs down by eliminating adverse selection, decreasing red tape, and a number of other things. That isn't politically feasible in the US at this time, so our Universal coverage is going to be a patchwork of insurance companies, regulations, public expansions, and taxes.

    1. What makes it not feasible in the States currently? (Not trying to start a debate or anything; I just want to understand your system more.)

      1. Insurance companies are a large portion of our economy-- you can't destroy an entire industry without some pretty bad collateral damage, especially one that can afford fancy lobbyists.

        It's widely believed that the US got this way because of price controls back in WWII-- companies started adding insurance as a benefit because they couldn't offer higher wages. (That didn't happen in other countries, so they were able to institute single payer systems.) Until costs started sky-rocketing, companies and unions fought hard to keep the health insurance status quo because provision of health insurance gave them leverage.

  13. Alberta also has the equivalent of MSP, I don't know details, only that my employer pays it for the people who reside in AB.
    Side note: approximate cost, in Canada, of having a baby when you're not covered: $10K. My friend's spouse has had heaps of difficulties with immigration/paperwork/coverage stuff so they had to pay out of pocket. Hopefully when things get worked out they will be reimbursed some, but he was pretty shocked at all the costs!
    I had a non-urgent surgery on my wrist once and was so thankful for healthcare! I couldn't imagine what it would have cost to pay for the 2 nurses, surgeon, resident and anesthesiologist for the morning :S

    1. Post author

      If you are a Canadian, you're always covered. If your friend wasn't yet a Canadian citizen - actually, it still should have been covered. My friend was a UK citizen when she had a baby here and it was free... maybe because she was married to a Canadian?

      1. I think you just have to prove residency in the province to be covered, not actually be a citizen. So if you're in the process of getting it all worked out (which could take years), you just have to wait through a three-month probationary period (to establish residence), and then you're covered.

        Fun fact: I've heard stories of touring musicians who were out of the country for 10 or 11 months a year, and lost their health insurance because of it (this is Ontario's) because OHIP claimed they didn't actually live in Ontario anymore, even though they still had a permanent address and basically lived on a tour bus. I think they had to stop touring for three months to re-establish residency, and then, well, lie when renewing their cards the next time. Or plan their tours strategically. Nutty though, right?

      2. Yes... it was/is supposed to be covered. That's the "heaps of difficulties" part. She has legal residency, 3 months, marriage certificate, is covered for additional insurance by her spouse's employer... etc. Total PITA for all involved.

  14. I used the Spanish healthcare system while I studied abroad, when I needed emergency surgery and then when I got really sick. I was treated without question of how I was going to pay, the ER waits were shorter than I've experienced in the US, and while the facilities were low frills (I had to pay to watch tv in my hospital room) I received fantastic treatment.

  15. Interesting post. I have a background in healthcare policy so I've actually done a lot of studying of the Canadian system, but it's interesting to hear from an actual consumer rather than just read the policies 🙂

    I'm currently pregnant, and have decent enough insurance though we are still going to be out a few thousand dollars in the end. It's painful, since we pay $250/mo in insurance premiums. We're hoping for no complications!

    I can see the benefits to both systems...overall I'm a fan of universal care though.

  16. Last week on the news there were some controversy over how a BC baby was shaken in foster care by her mother's boyfriend and suffered brain injury. Subsequently BC is footing the bill to take care of her. Since the guy who shook the baby doesn't have much in assets, the entire compensation is coming out of the province's budget. The annual cost to take care of the baby is $250,000 a year. A big chuck of that goes to a law firm who's involved with this case 😡 . The baby was awarded $13 million by the province. No big deal, that only averages out to about $4 each for every tax payer here. Still, it generated a lot of discussion on forums and news sites. I guess no system is perfect.

    1. Post author

      She has severe disabilities now because of the shaking. I'm ok with paying for that - that's just part of being a tax payer.

    2. I agree that I have no problem paying for this, as a taxpayer, but this has nothing to do with the health care system. This is the legal system, and the social services system. (That is to say, if the baby hadn't been shaken, but was brain damaged for some other no-fault reason, she's still be taken care of somehow.)

      Would the same not have happened in the US? If a member of society can't take care of herself, society will take care of her. No?

  17. Edward Antrobus

    I've gone back and forth on the merits of a single-payer system like Canada's.

    $40 sounds completely livable. That's about what my wife's premiums are after credits for the high-deductible health plan we get through her employer.

  18. I'm lucky to have great insurance that my company pays for mostly. However, up until two months ago, I had been uninsured for years. Probably since like 7 years old. My parents would pay out of pocket for medical expenses. I have a kidney condition so that meant thousands of dollars. Other than that, if I got sick I would just man up and take lots of over the counter medicine.

  19. Great overview for a non-Canadian. Thanks! I often hear about the "expense" of universal health care, but never hear about the benefits. I'm glad you took the time to lay it out (and that I came here today to read!).

  20. One of the best things about living in Canada is our Universal Health Care. Benefits are work are another plus as that is something you don't see often back home. We have alot to be proud of living in Canada and although we pay higher taxes and have to wait a bit longer at least we are getting these services unlike others who suffer in pain sometimes because they have to walk and stop at the front desk to pay. Great post! Mr.CBB

  21. Wow - Incredible post. There truly are so many misconceptions and you've provided SUCH an easy to understand perspective. I'm very interested to see how the healthcare system and bills work out in the US. My hubby is in health care and it will affect us in many ways. I'm always open to hearing about how other country's handle their healthcare so thanks for the insight!

  22. Meghan

    Love this! I can't imagine how people in the states think our system doesn't work. I was born with a heart defect and needed open heart surgery. In the US, that would have cost my family thousands of dollars without insurance. I'm perfectly willing to pay more taxes and have slightly longer wait times (I've never waited more than 2 1/2 hours) to ensure that EVERYONE gets health care.

  23. A big problem in the U.S.is how uninsured and many insured people don't go to the doctor unless something is really wrong, then the cost of health care goes up due to advanced conditions. Do you think people under universal care are more preventative or do they still procrastinate? Great post!

    1. Post author

      I'm not sure. I think inherintely we are all pretty preventative because nobody wants to get sick. I go the FIRST sign of the flu ( I don't wait until I'm 100% sure I have it) so I dont have to miss any work.

  24. Shyla

    MSP is $64 for a single BC resident who makes over $30,000 a year. Most employers subsidize half the premium. Great that your employer pays the whole thing. Couple and family premiums are well over $100.

  25. The UK's NHS (National Health Service) is the equivalent and provides an excellent standard of care. We do pay very high taxes and national insurance, but we can pretty much see a doctor whenever we want. There is also private health care here too (I have a plan through work) which gives you access to private hospitals and private doctors.

  26. Hmm, I have no idea what the deal is with pregnancy costs here. I do know that ER visits are free, doctor's visits are about $25-30 and subsidised prescription meds are only $3. Dental and vision costs are ouchies though.

  27. VERY INTERESTING! People talking about univ. healthcare in the US is all a flurry and it's neat to hear about it from the perspective of someone who really lives it, and isn't a politician trying to make it look good or bad, depending on their platform.

    You were just trying to be informative, but dang it, you've sold me. I was already sold, but you've made me like that system idea more.

  28. My parents live in Thailand and they have universal healthcare as well. I think it's ridiculous that people go bankrupt here in the US because they can't pay for healthcare.
    I don't understand why people are so resistant to universal healthcare in the US.

  29. Daisy,

    Thank you so much for your insightful and honest assesment of the Canadian healtcare system. Like TB said, it is hard to get a realistic view of what universal coverage would look like here in the U.S. because everything you hear is dripping with a political agenda. I know that this is only your perspective, but it really is a great post! Thank you for sharing!

    1. A few more quick things...
      Thank you for the mention 😀

      It seems like you guys actually have a "healthcare" system as opposed to the "sick care" and profit driven system we have in the U.S.

      I love that you showed us both the good and the bad of the system.

      Universal healthcare is one of the many reasons I love Canada. I'd move there if I thought I could talk Holly into it 😀


    I love the Canadian healthcare system. I've always felt so well taken care of.

    Because I work at a university, I think I have the added bonus that I can go to the campus health clinic. Because it serves a smaller populace, wait times are drastically reduced. I was there yesterday and only waited about 45 minutes to see a physician.

    I'm really glad I will never have to pay bills to have a child. That just seems so bizarre to me. It's stupid expensive to have a baby in the US. How is that ok??

  31. Kelly

    Interesting to read these comments, since I have friends who live in Toronto, New Brunswick and Vancouver and have told me much different stories. To me, waiting 2 months for a life threatening brain aneurysm is....unthinkable. Here in the U.S., you would be seen and operated on within the week, probably a day or two after they discovered it. And a horribly painful slipped disk, a week at the most before you'd get surgery. While you pay high taxes to cover your insurance, we pay lower taxes and pay for private insurance and the benefits that come along with it. I can see my doctor anytime I need to for any reason, usually within hours of calling for an appt. My cost is nothing out of pocket and my employer pays most of my insurance premium, we pay about $200 for a family of 8 and that covers 100% dental, 100% eyeglasses/vision, $10 per prescription no matter what it is (and there are many, many free prescriptions, like antibiotics). An example is, I tore a tendon in my foot. My friend in New Brunswick had a similar injury a week later. Neither of us could walk without crutches. While she waited to be seen by her doctor, I was seen, had an MRI which showed the injury, scheduled for surgery a week later (would have been sooner but we had to wait for school to get out because I couldn't drive after surgery). I then had the surgery and 6 weeks of physical therapy - all before she was even able to go in to see the orthopedic surgeon. It was 18 months before she got in and she's still waiting to be scheduled for surgery. Meanwhile, I'm done, healed and back to normal again. She is hobbling around on crutches and in pain a lot. That is what I don't want to happen here.

    My daughter is 23 and doesn't have health insurance. She goes to the clinic at the university near us and get free eye exams, free dental care and free check ups because she doesn't make enough money to pay (she does work). It is against the law in the U.S. for any hospital to turn you away if you come to the ER for treatment, even if you're not a citizen, even if you can't pay. And if you prove that you can't pay, they write it off to the charity department.

    So I'm not sure that one system is better than the other, they're just different. The U.S. bears the burden for doing all of the research and development for medications and other technology, that's why it costs a lot here. But we also have top notch doctors that people travel from all over the world to see. And the U.S. is where medical students want to attend medical school (I currently have a Canadian doctor who is doing his residency here because he says it is a big deal to have American medical training on your records).

    Every country has problems, but it's not as bad here as it's made out to be - there are a lot of misconceptions, rumors, etc. floating around. I can tell you as a chronically ill American woman (I have a serious kidney disease), I get the best treatment possible and my doctors are always willing to try something new to make my quality of life better. I never wait for appointments, surgeries, procedures, tests, etc. for more than a day or two - a week at most. I'm sure you will always find horror stories, but you'll find those all over the world. I have a friend who lives in Manchester England and the stories she's told me of being pregnant and having a baby under NHS care are horrifying! Is that the way it is for everyone over there? I don't know since I don't live there. We're all just lucky to live in clean, safe countries with good healthcare, clean water, stable governments, decent education, etc. when it comes down to it, that is something we can all agree on. 😉

    1. Post author

      I don't believe I ever criticized the American system at all in my post. Not even a little. In fact, I don't think I even mentioned the American system except to ask for my readers not to start a debate about it.

      As an American, of course you would like to think that you have a great system. As a Canadian, I would like to think the same of my countries system. We are operating on a LOT of bias right now, the both of us. If you read one of Melissa's comments, she mentions that there are ways to get faster service.

      I think it's great that you have the funds to pay for medical care so that you can get right in without waiting for them. I've heard many a story of medical bankruptcy, people NOT being able to get treatment (I've never heard of a "charity" department but what do I know) or people going into serious debt.

      Essentially, in Canada, if it's an emergency, you get treated right away. If it's not an emergency, then sometimes you have to wait. And frankly, I knew that wait time is what a lot of Americans that want to debate the way the rest of the world is doing it will cling to as the "flaw" in our system but at the bottom line, the Canadian system is based on keeping people from dying. And I know somebody who was American (turned Canadian citizen) who had something wrong with her back who couldn't afford the surgery in the states so waited anyway (for a LOT longer). So unless you have the money to get it right away in the states, there are a lot of people that wait because of funding.

      Also, I work in Canadian healthcare and that is not true about American experience or education looking good - it's true of the UK though (the UKs care system is coveted and especially with nursing).

      And while I am not arguing that the US does a lot of research, they certainly do not do all of it. I really don't want to get in a debate with a patriotic American about another country's healthcare, but Canada's (and we're leaving out the rest of the world here) research discovered the T Cell receptor, discovered insulin and developed treatment for diabetes, has made a lot of genetic discoveries and has done a LOT of other research and has discovered a lot of pretty awesome things. I feel the need to remind you that each country does research, and each countries has it's own medications and laws and medical discoveries. SO that doesn't really have anything to do with it.

  32. Kelly

    PS - having a baby never cost me more than $1000 and that was when I had very basic insurance. And the hospital cut that in half and let me pay the rest monthly. That was for seeing a doctor every month (and eventually every week at the end), ultra sounds, blood tests, etc. and a private room that had an extra bed for my husband to stay, a private bathroom and lots of peace and quiet. When I had better insurance, it cost $250 total for all of that. So I don't know where these crazy huge amounts people are reporting are coming from? If you don't have insurance, you go to a clinic and they work out a plan that you can afford based on what you make. If you can afford nothing, you pay nothing, but you'll still get the same nice, private room that I had and your baby will be treated just as well.

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  36. I have mixed feelings about the system, I feel that where I live it is abused, mismanaged completely by the province and the waiting times are abysmal. I've been waitlisted for a year without a phonecall for an appointment yet to see an obgyn for birthcontrol, I also can't choose my doctor because if I leave my current one I risk not having a GP at all because there aren't enough around here. Making an appointment to get in sometimes takes months. Universal healthcare is great when it's managed properly but it seems to me that the poorer provinces have it a lot tougher to manage it properly.

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  38. I want to move to Canada now. I get that it's not completely free, but it's still WAY cheaper than here in the US. Thanks for this post, Daisy---it's really cool to hear about Canada's health care systems from someone who actually uses it. 🙂

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  40. immastar

    This post makes me want to go to Canada!I've heard that the Universal health care in Canada is awesome~~~

  41. One thing to mention is eye exams re free for our children u dee the age of 16. Also, kudos for your reply to Kelly! Yay Canada. We a care about all people whether the make $1 a year, 0$ a year or 1 million $ s year. We are all equal.

  42. What's more interesting is that Canada pays only about 8% of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to give it's residents universal care. Where as the USA pays about 18% of its GDP and it's residents get NOTHING for that money.

    The single payer system gives the single payer HUGE negotiating power with it's suppliers. The cash cost per service is about 1/2 of what it is in the USA because the single payer system can dictate how much it will offer for said service or piece of equipment.

    Doctors, more often than not are in it to help people. The money-grubbing ones generally offer cosmetic (not covered) services, or move the the USA to make more money.

    Additionally, since the "business" of health-care doesn't need to chase down it's customers for payment, there are HUGE savings in legal pursuits of deadbeat clients and no staff required for the pursuit of payment. Just fill in the form of what procedure was administered and the government credits the necessary hospital, clinic, or doctor as necessary.

    What Canada does have issues with is the non-critical care. We do pay out of pocket for some of this care.

    I'm sorry for trying to make this politic, but I know far too many RED, capitalistic people in the USA who constantly complain about the cost of care when their child gets a scrape, or a cut, or broken bone. To which I always remind them of their freedom to pay higher prices. Why didn't you shop around for a cheaper doctor when your leg had a compound fracture, or your appendix burst?

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  45. Lea

    Cool, I just wished in my stay in one of Montreal hospitals , the rooms were more clean and the staff more efficient ! I mean a whole floor with 2 nurses? And how about not having to share the room with 3 another dudes and not to have to see the extra patients beds in the corridors for lack of vacancy ! And how about my aunt who had to wait 6 months before she starts her chemo after breast surgery ? And how about you fix the electrical wires hanging from the ceilings where you can go to the hospital for a stupid broken arm and end up dying electrocuted ! Don't fool yourself ! If things were so shiny , how come is canada ranked 30th ? USA is 37 but that is comprehensible , healthcare is not free ! But in your case, a universal healthcare and all the wonderful affordable with no waiting lists listed above and still ranked 30? I mean it looks like a total failure to me ... Oh and did I mention that your healthcare is going bankrupt ? Just follow the news ... Because free things simply do not work ! Sad I know but this is the harsh reality ...

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