Kathy-Ellen Kups
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Kathy-Ellen Kups

Kathy-Ellen Kups is the breast cancer blogger for Everydayhealth.com.

Canada is best -- but not why you think

I could tell you how wonderful Canadian health care is by recounting my experience with it spanning four decades. I could tell you that because of the Canadian health-care system, my dad went into remission from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for ten years, that my mother survived both breast and lung cancer and my niece survived childhood leukemia. Perhaps I could tell you that my huge network of family and friends in Canada have no complaints and get regular check ups and treatments.

Some of you might prefer to hear that health care is only 10 percent of Canada's GDP while American's spend almost 16 percent of their GDP on health care. Or you might like to know that Canada has afforded health care and still has had a surplus in its budget for the past eleven years. Instead I want to tell you something about Canadian health care that you may not have considered: the fact that Canadians totally take their universal one-payer system for granted.

Health care is something most Canadians don't even think about. If someone loses his job he doesn't have to worry about getting the money to pay for COBRA. If a couple wants to buy a house they don't have to consider a smaller mortgage to ensure they can cover their monthly health care premium. A single mother doesn't have to stay up all night wondering if she should rush her sick child to emergency because she can't afford health care and doesn't have the money to go to a doctor during regular hours. Any twenty-something university graduate in Canada can see a doctor for infections and sprains and the little things American youth try to live with because they are no longer covered under their parent's plan. This is what is most wonderful about Canadian health care. There is no reason that Americans can't develop a one-payer universal system similar to Canada's unless of course they like to worry about health care.

Often when I tell someone how wonderful the Canadian health-care system is I am told that I should go back to Canada if I like it so much. Well, actually that is my back-up plan. What's yours?

By Kathy-Ellen Kups  |  October 20, 2009; 10:44 PM ET  | Category:  Health Care Reform , Insurance Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"Beyond that few suits end up with any real pay out, most suits are pure crap wasting time and money and tort reform has been shown to cut that out."

Could we have any reference for this? Perhaps you'd like to look at Texas.

And I haven't the vaguest idea of what aou are talking about in your second comment. In plain language, you want to take away a basic American right to save physicians a few bucks which will help the rest of us very, very little.

Posted by: lensch | October 22, 2009 8:17 PM
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One more point on tort reform. Big pay outs are offsets for medical issues, if we have universal coverage there is no need for such offsets, other countries have already figured this out.

Also your per person math does not work, only a liminted number of people pay into the sytem through insurance or by taxes that pay doctors for medicare/cade. 54 million are kids, 121 million don't pay taxes.

Posted by: flonzy3 | October 22, 2009 3:41 PM
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lensch wrote:

You have got to be kidding!! A half a penny saved out of a health care dollar!! What is that? $50 a year from the average family health insurance policy? You only looked at one side. What about the baby who has to be on a respirator for the rest of her life because some doc was thinking about his golf date in 30 minutes? Maybe you just don't understand.

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Not to mention tax money and government spending. It still $10,000,000,000

Beyond that few suits end up with any real pay out, most suits are pure crap wasting time and money and tort reform has been shown to cut that out.

The type of situation you talk about is a crime and like every other crime in this country it deserves a criminal sentence and a fair payout from insurance and a mega suit on the doctor’s wealth. I got news for you if the doctor hit you while drunk his car insurance has a cap and the rest comes out of his estate.

Posted by: flonzy3 | October 22, 2009 3:07 PM
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flonzy3 - You have got to be kidding!! A half a penny saved out of a health care dollar!! What is that? $50 a year from the average family health insurance policy? You only looked at one side. What about the baby who has to be on a respirator for the rest of her life because some doc was thinking about his golf date in 30 minutes? Maybe you just don't understand.

Think of it this way. We are in the Coliseum. On one side we have the corporation or insurance company represented by a platoon of special operations soldiers with auto rifles, RPG's, mortars and perhaps a tank. On the other side is the plaintiff, a 110 lb woman armed with a paring knife. And she is sick!! Of course she needs a paladin, someone to fight for her. And that guy has to put money up front to buy his guys and weapons. Read A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr which tells the true story of the efforts of the people of Woborn, MA to get money to have their children treated for the leukemia contracted because three local corporations were polluting their water supply. Read how for years they were unable to get a lawyer to take their case because the trial would be very expensive and the corporations had cracker jack law departments. Read how a young attorney with too much hubris took the case and how the corporations hired the law school teacher of the Judge. Read how they delayed and delayed the trial until the attorney ran out of money and was forced to settle for peanuts which didn't come close to covering the medical expenses of the kids. Read how he was thus forced out of the practice of law. Or if you don't read books, watch the movie. It has John Tavolta as the young lawyer and Robert Duvall as the old lawyer on the other side.

The tort attorneys have to put up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars up front. If they lose, it is all gone and they have no money for the next case. If they win, before they can make a penny, they have to get this money back. They do not want to take it out of the part for medical expanses or the part for pain and suffering. They have to take it out of the punitive damages. If there are not enough punitive damages, they cannot take the case.

It is beyond me why anyone would want to give away one of the basic rights of Americans, to seek redress for their ills, to save 0.5% or to just possibly pick up a couple of Republican votes. We can probably save a bundle by doing away with trials altogether. As the Red Queen said, “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”

PS I am a mathematician, not an attorney. I have never even met a tort attorney.

Posted by: lensch | October 22, 2009 2:38 PM
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I once heard the Head of the American College of Cardiology tell the following anecdote, which really captures the essence of the difference between the Canadian and US health systems:
"A colleague of mine in Ontario gets paid $10 to read an ECG, I bill $20. However, of the $20 I bill, about $2 goes to cover unpaid readings, $5 goes to my billing service, and $3 goes to cover my higher malpractice costs. So in the end I get the same $10 as my Canadian counterpart for this service, but it has cost my patient twice as much as it has cost the Canadian."

Posted by: Zaphod1 | October 22, 2009 12:26 PM
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lensch

The CBO states currently 2% of the money spent on Healthcare is malpractice insurance and that tort reform could knock that to 1-1.5%. Sounds small until you realize half a percent of two trillion (current spending) dollars is $10,000,000,000.

Can you say that $10,000,000,000 is not worth saving??? That is PER YEAR. I thought the point of reform is to SAVE MONEY IN THE SYSTEM.

Posted by: flonzy3 | October 22, 2009 9:58 AM
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lance1

I called my GP at 10am and saw him at 4:30pm when I had a sinus infection a couple of weeks ago.

You might want to read this CNN commentary from a doctor in the north east on the problems with Massachusetts universal care, it will happen nation wide if we are not careful. I cannot see how forcing people to the emergancy room when they are sick now will drop our costs and shrink the GDP issue.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/08/20/pho.doctor.shortage/index.html

I am for reform but I have yet to see any real reform on the table. The Democrats have pay offs to their special intrest groups in the current bills, that is not helping anything.

Posted by: flonzy3 | October 22, 2009 9:48 AM
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timsiepel: Ontario doctors are paid a salary based on the size of their clients/case loads, not a per visit basis. They are all in private practice, pay their own employees and download their bills to one source monthly, with no need to consult with an insurance company for permissions and no need to fill out reams of insurance forms. Therefore with a much reduced staff vs American GP's they get to keep a lot more of their gross. This pay for quantity is silly and saying our doctors are confined to a dangerous system or enviornment is typical of the uninformed for the OECD rates Canada, Norway, Sweden, Australia and Japan with the best healthcare outcomes and I'm sure Canada doesn't achieve that rank with danger as the overview. You might want to talk with flonzy3, the supposed wait times or doctor shortages are another canard as well. Frankly I don't give a hoot what you guys do, but I am costantly amused at the sideswipes taken against a system that works so well and is recognized as such internationally. Unless you are very insecure, I can't accept it is normal to demean something you have never experienced.

Posted by: sjag1 | October 21, 2009 11:12 PM
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Peace of mind. That is what you have with the Canadian system. My parents survived cancer, emergencies, broken hips etc. within the Canadian health system. My doctor relatives there don't make as much money, it is true. And the Canadians will grumble at waits, but if you have a broken hip as my mother did, it will get fixed immediately. I can't believe the misrepresentations I hear so often about the Canadian system - and they aren't socialists. Theirs is a mixed economy, as ours is. The bottom line is - our people need health care and we need to provide it. What kind of a country are we if we don't?

Posted by: jhogg | October 21, 2009 8:20 PM
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As a physician, I am afraid of the Canadian system, because I would still be a private businessman. I visited a Canadian office several years ago. They were getting $15 an office visit, and trying to make it up by seeing 8 patients an hour. I don't want to see 8 patients an hour; it's too fast, it's dangerous, and I don't think my American patients are going to accept it. Don't forget, Canadians are nicer. If the government is going to take over medicine, I want to be an employee; I want them to try to run a medical office on $15 per patient. I want to be in a union, I want a morning break and an afternoon break, a paid vacation, and I want to get out at 4 pm. Just like any other government worker.

Posted by: timsiepel | October 21, 2009 8:03 PM
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I am a mathematician and the inability of smart people to face facts on "tort reform" is driving me nuts. These facts are clear. States with tort reform not only have no lower health costs, but the frequency of tests and treatments is similar to those states without tort reform. Trot reform , caps on malpractice suits, does not save money. If you go to page 150 ff of http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/99xx/doc9924/12-18-KeyIssues.pdf, you will see much of the data.

Is there any way I can get people to face facts besides going to the Mall, pouring gasoline over myself, and lighting a match?

Posted by: lensch | October 21, 2009 6:40 PM
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You cannot convince those who will not hear, who have been relentlessly bombarded with deliberate misrepresentations about Canadian health care. I despair of the rational consideration required in a democracy and rely instead on my dual citizenship to give me continuing access to superb care under my back up plan. I wish the rest of my family could be as fortunate.

Posted by: QBee1 | October 21, 2009 5:42 PM
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No doubt that the sheer size of the U.S. poses issues that are unique to us, but please stop with the "doctor shortages, delayed treatments, or waiting periods" as if the U.S. doesn't have the same problems. When was the last time you called up a doctor (general practicioner or specialist) and gone right in for non-emergency care?

Posted by: lance1 | October 21, 2009 3:03 PM
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The only plus mentioned over the system I have been in my whole like is that the care is not tied to the job.

No mention of doctor shortages, delayed treatments, or waiting periods that the American system does not have.

No mention of tort reform being a major part of the Canadian system that the Democrats will not speak of since they get so much money from the lawyer lobby.

Each system has it problems but as an insured American I like my system better, going to the Canadian system would be a down grade for me. I am all for fixing our problems including the lack of coverage for the poor but not if I have to pay even more into the system though taxes like the Senate want and not at the expense of wait lines like the Canadian system has. As President Obama said “we need a uniquely American solution to our problems”; why because we don’t want the problems of the other systems.

Posted by: flonzy3 | October 21, 2009 12:54 PM
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The only plus mentioned over the system I have been in my whole like is that the care is not tied to the job.

No mention of doctor shortages, delayed treatments, or waiting periods that the American system does not have.

No mention of tort reform being a major part of the Canadian system that the Democrats will not speak of since they get so much money from the lawyer lobby.

Each system has it problems but as an insured American I like my system better, going to the Canadian system would be a down grade for me. I am all for fixing our problems including the lack of coverage for the poor but not if I have to pay even more into the system though taxes like the Senate want and not at the expense of wait lines like the Canadian system has. As President Obama said “we need a uniquely American solution to our problems”; why because we don’t want the problems of the other systems.

Posted by: flonzy3 | October 21, 2009 12:51 PM
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