Universal Healthcare (Why Not?)


healtcare for allOn our last trip to the Great White North, we had the pleasure of staying at the home of a nice older couple, via Airbnb.

They gave us a warm Canadian greeting and showed us to our cozy basement quarters equipped with all that we needed for our brief stay. They were very accommodating and we soon learned the gentleman formerly worked as an itinerant pastor traveling around the world, including Minnesota (where we live).

The couple was now engaged in a Canadian ministry that helped send bibles/support ministries throughout third world countries from the support of various thrift stores set-up across Canada.

Before we headed home later that week, we had breakfast with them and we got to hear more about their story – including life in Canada.

The subject turned to healthcare and they mentioned how grateful they were to have universal healthcare.

“We can't believe how in the U.S. someone can go broke through a medical crisis,” the man said. “We're happy we don't have to worry about that here.”

In Canada, residents opt for universal care and (supplemental) private plans through their company. According to a tweet exchange I recently had with a reporter, 2/3 of Canadians are covered this way.

The conversation with this couple surprised me a bit. We'd heard mixed views on healthcare in Canada. Many expressed displeasure with the wait times to get care – especially in an emergency. While others complained about the higher taxes.

Since the couple had a more conservative bent, I'd thought they'd be more anti-universal healthcare.

But they weren't.

How my thoughts have changed on healthcare for all

Since I had this exchange and read other commentary, my thinking has changed a bit on providing healthcare for all. It also brought to mind a story of an older, wheelchair-bound, homeless man I'd sometimes give rides to when I was living downtown.

After experiencing some heart problems, he went to a hospital to get checked out. He stayed there for a day or so, but then was kicked out (because he had no coverage). While not fully healed, I was a bit taken aback this could happen.

Now, I don't know the circumstances of this man or if he ever applied for low-income health coverage (which is available in MN). But, I know this is not a right for all in other states, like Arizona.

I also understand the hospitals and health providers need to make money. And, sometimes, I think this priority may trump providing the best care for an individual.

I certainly don't pretend to know all about the complicated intricacies of healthcare. Because it is complex and there are many variables. But, I've always been puzzled we haven't come to a working solution to the problem in all these years.

In the early life of the Mayo Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, it innovated the idea of offering free medical care to those in need. They did this by charging wealthier (or people who could afford care) more to help pay for those less fortunate. It was a simple idea that worked for years. The Mayo still offers assistance to those in need, today.

While I don't think a person without coverage today can arrive at a hospital—near death—and not receive treatment, I wonder if we could do better to provide care – better preventative care for all who need it.

Higher deductibles and paying out of pocket cause many to skip seeing the doctor when they may need to because they have other spending “priorities”. Thus neglecting a problem health issue that may have been nipped in the bud if they had coverage. Or, where “cost” wasn't a factor.

And since we have the latest advancements in medical care, why can’t this be a right for all. Especially to those in need?

What are your thoughts?

I'm interested to hear what you think about this topic – if you care to weigh in? What's been your experience with healthcare costs, healthcare in general, etc.?

How Matthew and his wife opted for a cheaper alternative to private plans through Medi-Share.

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  1. I visit a forum where we all discuss our day-to-day life events and so for the. One gal in Canada had to wait 2 months for the results of a cancer screening. She mentioned that she could pay for additional insurance that would get the results much quicker and allow her to visit a facility that those on the public system can’t go to (unless they pay for the insurance as well) to do the testing. However, she refused to pay the additional costs and therefore, waited. And stressed. And complained…..
    In my opinion, there is no perfect system. And to charge people very high taxes for the opportunity to be placed on a waitlist for medical testing/visits/surgery is not my idea of a better system. I think that type of system chooses who is a priority and who isn’t…..
    A journalist in Canada whose mother got Cancer and was placed on a 6 month waitlist for treatment. She encouraged her mom to go to the US to get treatment faster but mom refused. Mom passed away while waiting. I have more stories but you get the idea….I’m not a fan.

  2. Good discussion here. We live near Buffalo, NY and so are very near the Ontario, Canada border. It is common to hear about delays up around Toronto metro area in receiving needed surgeries etc. There seems to be a steady trek of Ontario folks coming here and (I guess) paying out-of-pocket for needed procedures. But I also hear some Ont. folks are content with their care. It seems that the difference arises when a person needs surgery or the like, sometimes elective but often “needed” , and is not willing (or able?) to wait months in line when they can get the care here in Western NY in, say, a month.

    • Interesting to get your take Roger, living so close to the border. Yeah, I guess if you need to wait (as I’ve heard is the case in Canada) for more pressing procedures, it can be an issue.

  3. I am in favor of a single payer health care system. My sister is married to a Canadian, and she is very impressed with their health care.

    • What impresses her about their system?

  4. It would be great if those over 50 could be included in Medicare. As that time frame is when many that age begin to lose their jobs and then are stuck with no job and no medical insurance. It would help peace of mind too.

    • Good thoughts Barbara. I would agree with you here.. less to worry about as one ages.

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