Friday, July 31, 2009

Reader from Canada: Health Care Story

Hi, Rosaria:

I've heard so much philosophical yattering about American health care reform, and how "BAD" Canadian health care is, that I decided to share a personal story. You're free to share this if you think it is useful.

At Christmas, I fell, hit my head, and suffered a concussion. My wife took me to one of the hospitals in our city. (In Canadian health care, the patient gets to choose the hospital where she or he receives care.)

Over the space of about six hours,
• I had an initial workup by an emergency physician, which included a number of tests.
• I had a much more detailed workup by a neurological resident.
• I had two CT scans -- a "regular" one, and one after having been injected with a dye, so the radiologist could get a better look at some things. (The radiologist concluded that I did not have a "Natasha Richardson experience," though that might have been the case.)
• Then a further workup with a very experienced neurologist -- who followed up with the resident on the resident's work, and the neurologist's work, and ultimately gave me some recommendations as to what I should do. NO, he didn't give me a prescription for pills.
• And the hospital even gave me a sandwich, apple sauce, and a drink for lunch (since I was there over lunch time).

All that, and I didn't pay one penny.

That is typical Canadian health care, as I have experienced it as a patient, and read about it. That is how it is supposed to work. Sometimes things don't go as planned, but that "difficulty" happens in American hospitals, too.

So, what was "BAD" about my experience in Canadian health care?



Thank you, Rob-bear, for sharing your life history with us.


Anonymous said...

That is what I have heard from England. I suppose the most vocal are those who had bad experiences with their health care. I was in Rotary and had friends around the world and all of them had free health care. The worst case was one patient in England had to wait a week or two (forget which) for a surgeon to return to do something about an aortic aneurysm. I happened to know something about that because at the time I had already been waiting three months for surgery in Dayton, Ohio at Good Samaritan Hospital. Why? Well they wanted me to wait until they finished some tests that took that long. The tests were to see if I could stand the surgery. I could and then did it.

I will probably use your story as I am writing about this very topic.

Rob-bear said...

Have at it, "Honest Abe." Be my guest. (It would be nice to see what you've written after it's done.)

lakeviewer said...

Hi Abe, Rob,
Glad to have you aboard! Let's speak loudly!

Beth said...

Ack! I am so sick of the insurance companies in America. I had a procedure (in the damn doctor's office - no hospital involved) done last fall and I am still paying for it. Something is not right.

Seems like it would just be cheaper to die.

Nancy said...

I am so tired of they politicians, all covered themselves, catering to the insurance company lobbyists. When is our country going to wake up?

Lori ann said...

I don't understand it. I had a similar experiance as Rob a few weeks ago, I too was in the emergency room, was put in quarentine, had blood drawn, chest xrays a spinal tap and an iv, which took about 20minutes for everything(although i was there for hours). just last week we recieved the final bill from that one afternoon, 6 different bills in all, totaling almost $5000.00 dollars. And we were treated poorly. The private practice Dr. isn't any better, they charge $275.00 just to walk in the door. Each time. And then you get the bill. It's making us both sick now.

Rob-bear said...

Oh, Lori-Ann:

I am so sad to hear this. I hope you can help to make change happen.


Rob-bear said...

P.S.: One of the interesting things related to medicare -- when people do not have to worry about paying their hospital/doctor bills, they actually get better, faster. That's from research done in the early days of Canadian medicare.

Relieving "payment-related stress" promotes healthiness.

Fire Byrd said...

Same as UK health care.....
So how come America punishes it's inhabitants by not having this access to free care?
That's not to say that the UK system is perfect far from it, but it's FREE even if there is a wait. So which is better Abraham?

Valerie said...

That's the beauty of health care in the UK. No bills and as far as I'm concerned the service and nursing is excellent. Some moan about it, forgetting the advantages of having a free health service, but then some people will moan about anything. To the surprise of many, I underwent straightforward surgery in a relatively short time ... that depends on which hospital we go to.

potsoc said...

A former neighbour of mine had flue while in Florida and went to a doctor. Cost him 5000.00US$. In Val-David he would have been treated free, had gotten vaccinated free and part of his medication would have been paid by our public health insurance program. What are you all waiting for to claim the same treatment from your local authorities?
Of course we have some lobbyists, including some doctors such as doctor Chaoulli who are trying to bring back private medecine and private health insurance, but the immense majority oppose them...and our politicians are afraid to bo ousted if they succumb to big money.

Anonymous said...

Popped back in to thank you for stopping at my blog and for the comment you left me there.

I had posted a bit about Universal Health Care on another blog. You missed it.

If you want to see that and read the comments you are most welcome.

Tessa said...

I've spent some time reading all the posts and many of the comments regarding the state of Health Care in North America and have come away appalled by what I've learned. I think the reality struck home when reading about what my very dear friend Lori has recently been through. My goodness, it is seriously shocking.

People here in England whinge mightily about the National Health, but those who do should be made to understand what it is like for Americans who have to fork out thousands of dollars for what is given freely in this country.

When my husband decided he wanted to return to live in England after many years aboard, he decided not to continue with the health insurance which the company for whom he'd worked had covered over the years because a) the monthly fee was prohibitive and b) he had continued, even while abroad, to pay his contribution to the NHS.

About a year after arriving back in England, he had a hernia operation on the NHS. It was done with keyhole surgery and he was out of hospital the next day and back to normal activities very rapidly.

The first hernia op. had been done 'privately' 2 years earlier (i.e. paid for by insurance) when we came over the the UK on leave. While his hospital room was like a 5 star hotel and he had a team of nurses looking after him day and night - the operation was lengthy (not key-hole) and he suffered with considerable pain afterwards. The bill was well over £3,000. QED, eh?

Ribbon said...

Hi Rosaria...
Just been catching up on past posts and am so sorry to read about the suffering.
As you know I've said earlier that I think it's inhuman the way the sick are treated in your country.... they're made sicker with the costs of survival.

I have been very blessed with good health, but I do have people close to me that have had to use hospital facilities and to my knowledge haven't had to pay a cent.
Yes you can go on a waiting list if it is not a life threatening emergency, but nothing to complain about in the scheme of things.

take care and all the best wishes for a better more caring system.


PS... Do you pay to have your babies too?
We have the option of a very supportive pulic system completely free.

Shadow said...

wow. we have a long way to go in this neck of the woods....

Boots said...

why would we want a system that is already available every where else AND funds are not available for?

The 46 million are made up of those who do not wish to be insured at this time, who are illegal immigrants, who are between insurance...actual number of uninsured is more around 8 insure them?

My father in law was a very very poor carpenter in the small city in Tennessee. He was 82 and had a heart attack. The family got him to the local hospital, where he was evaluated and told they couldnt help his as well as the bigger hospital in Nashville, 2 hours away. THEY HELICOPTERED HIM TO ST. THOMAS HOSPITAL! put him in with the top cardiologist team there and treated him for 8 days....NO MONEY!!! NOT DENIED TREATMENT BECAUSE HE WAS UNINSURED, OR POOR!
sorry but the ignorance/media gullible, or blindness of the American People is frustrating me on this topic.

Rob-bear said...

I'm a little troubled, and puzzled, by Boots comments.

1. Boots doesn't understand the life reality of many Americans, and others. And as to 8 million uninsured, I've never heard anything like that. Were is the research to support that number?

2. I'm glad Boots father got such excellent care. But he is the exception. Charity cases normally get very second class or minimal care. There is good research on that, by doctors.

3. Boot doesn't like the message so she wants to "shoot the messenger." Boots forgets "the media" includes doctors who are reporting research results -- sharing those with other doctors, in order to improve patient care. I can suggest to her five English-language medical journals she should be reading regularly if she really wants to understand health care and medical insurance.

potsoc said...

I concur with Rob-Bear on Boots. I'm sure the lady had a wonderful experience with her daddy,,,but even rightist newspapers write about horror stories. Besides her father could have died anytime during his multiple transfers.
Here, hospitals do not just evaluate, they stabilize the patient before transferring the guy and money is no object. In an emergency even tourists are treated before money is inquired about. At the hospital I presided the board we wrote off bad debts for about 100 ooo$ a year, mainly for US tourist who left without paying after emergency treatment.

Rob-bear said...

Thanks for the insights, potsoc.

Lori ann said...

To comment on anybody not wishing to be insured, that is a myth. If indeed that's whats meant here, I'm not exactly clear either.

This morning in the L.A.Times Opinion section there were several letters on this subject. This from a Nicholas Altman M.D. : "...We see patients every day who are more afraid of medical bills than their illnesses..."

This is true even for people that have insurance, the reason is deductibles are so high people have to pay thousands out of pocket before the insurance even kicks in.

Thank you Rosaria, Rob-bear and Tessa,I so appreciate your kind words. Rob, what you said is the absolute truth, losing everything is a real threat to many Americans. For the uninsured (and even those with insurance)one major illness or accident is all it would take. My husband and I had some sleepless nights and then we said Enough. We'll pay what we can, when we can (i'm not even working now, I've had to file for disability insurance)but this is not going to change our quality of life, we won't be sick over money.

We have turned to Eastern medicine now. The only thing rich so far has been the experiance.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

I am intrigued by the debate going on here. (I'm a UK resident BTW.)

Yes, on the whole our health care is very good. Nevertheless the politicians are still messing around with it.

We live in a rural area and we had an excellent local hospital which they have turned into a specialist unit so for most things we have a long drive to get to other hospitals. The politicians' plan is to get rid of the local hospital completely.

The local hospital used to be a 5 star place to go and have your baby. This has been largely dismantled. In certain cases when the birth may go wrong...this is such a bad have to go further to the next biggest, more busy hospital.

I'm currently faced with a 6 week wait for a MRI and a CAT scan. Yes, it is a very good system and we are lucky that it is free. Nevertheless as people get older and live longer there are increasing pressures on it. I wonder how long it will last?

ellen abbott said...

My granddaughter fell and busted open her chin at a summer day camp at a local church (she was visiting with a friend). They thought it needed stitches and so she went to an emergency room (because all the doc-in-a-box places had closed). She was there maybe one hour and the bill from the hospital was $1200.00. The treatment was a doctor squeezed the cut together and applied super glue. He spent less than 5 minutes with her and then sent a bill for $800.00, over and above the hospital bill of $1200.00.

Boots is just plain ignorant. Nobody in THIS country WANTS to be uninsured. It's a choice between food, housing, school supplies and clothes for your kids, etc. Oh, we are starving and have no place to live but we do hqve health insurance that we can't use because the deductible is so damn high we can't pay it cause we have no money left over after we pay our premiums.

And I am sick of people who are comfortable (or even not) blaming the illegals for the state of health care in this country. What a hateful stance. You want to blame someone? blame the people who are getting rich off the status quo.

Boots said...

I am not ignorant ~ I disagree. I told a story of the medical system in America doing a great job! Obviously you must've been seeing red rather quickly because it was my father in law, and the local hospital DID stabilize him and called ahead to the hospital in Nashville. OH~BTW my sister works for 17 cardiologists and one of them was paid in pot holders, hundreds of home made woven pot holders there are good drs and there are some good stories of health care as well.

I never said that our system was perfect; I said providing nationalized health care was not the answer.
Businesses are not going to continue to offer insurance if they know the employees can get insured by government! Our options will be zero.
I am not ignorant~I disagree. Thanks to the present Administration I have paid very close attention to current events.
"Health Care Lie: 47million uninsured Americans"
A closer look at that report reveals the Census data include 9.487 million people who are “not a citizen.” Subtracting the 10 million non-Americans, the number of uninsured Americans falls to roughly 37 million.
But according to the same Census report, there are 8.3 million uninsured people who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and 8.74 million who make more than $75,000 a year. That’s roughly 17 million people who ought to be able to “afford” health insurance because they make substantially more than the median household income of $46,326.
Dr. Grace-Marie Turner, a BMI adviser and president of the Galen Institute, agreed that “the number [on uninsured] is inflated and affects the debate.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a liberal non-profit frequently quoted by the media, puts the number of uninsured Americans who do not qualify for current government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 13.9 million and 8.2 million. That is a much smaller figure than the media report.
Kaiser’s 8.2 million figure for the chronically uninsured only includes those uninsured for two years or more. It is also worth noting, that, 45 percent of uninsured people will be uninsured for less than four months according to the Congressional Budget Office.
It turns out that 253.4 million Americans-or a whopping 83% of the country- have health insurance, whether it's through private insurers, employer-based coverage, a government program or Medicaid/Medicare. The majority, 202 million of the 253.4 million, pay for private insurance.
Nearly 10 million of those 45 million aren't even American citizens, and nearly 17 million of them can easily afford insurance, but choose not to get it (these folks will be taxed under Obamacare for opting out.) When the numbers are crunched, it turns out that only 11 million legal American citizens who would like health insurance don't have it, and even that figure is likely high. If we take it at 11 million, that's less than 4% of the country.
Now, it's important that we get health care to those 4%, of course. But is it really necessary to rip apart the health care system we currently have to do it? Yes, we all want better coverage that's more affordable and easier to navigate. Obamacare doesn't solve any of these. All it does is help less than 4% of the country get health insurance, while putting the rest of us through a tangled maze of bureaucracy, for worse care that costs just as much, maybe more. The long-term effects are even more frightening, but in the short term do we really want to penalize the many in favor of the (very) few?

potsoc said...

Boots, the general idea of a universal health care is to provide equal access regardless of means and to prevent those who do get sick from being dropped by the private for profit insurers and going bankrupt afterwards.
And no compassion does not apply only to certified citizens or permanent residents.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Yes, thanks to Rob for sharing. It baffles my mind as to why some people in the U.S. are so fearful of universal health care.

Polar Bear said...

Your stories are so interesting and well written.I enjoy your style polar bear