As a Canadian, I am often bewildered by the American Left’s utopian albeit perfectly incorrect views of the Canadian healthcare system. The general notion, as exemplified in Michael Moore’s 2007 film Sicko, is that countries such as Canada and Cuba offer compassionate universal free healthcare to its citizenry while a diabolical consortium of capitalists headed by Dr. Evil runs the American system. Let me share some important realities regarding our “free” Canadian healthcare.
(1) Our healthcare is anything but free. We are levied some of the most punitive and exorbitant tax rates of all industrialized nations. The average Canadian will pay extraordinarily more taxes to subsidize the “free” healthcare system then he/she will ever receive in return in terms of services rendered.
(2) Margaret Thatcher famously quipped “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Let’s see how this played out within the Canadian healthcare system. For decades, the Canadian medicare card did not include a photo ID. In other words, when an individual presented his/her card to obtain “free” medical services, seldom did anyone ensure that the card belonged to the individual in question. The running joke among many Middle Eastern communities (recall that I was born in Lebanon) is that the whole of the Middle East obtained free healthcare in Canada. The Canadian government eventually smartened up to this astonishing scam by altering the medicare cards to include a photo ID. That said, the politicians did not have to worry about the billions of dollars stolen (which I paid for), as there is always a passive citizenry willing to absorb additional tax hikes. You see, we have “free” healthcare in Canada.
(3) The Canadian healthcare system is so overburdened that it is difficult to find a family physician willing to take on new patients. In our “free” system, one has to beg and plead to be taken as a patient. You are made to feel as though you are personally indebted to a physician who accepts you as a patient. “Thank you, doctor. I will never forget your infinite kindness for having accepted to provide me the ‘free’ service that I pay thousands of dollars per year in taxes to have. You are a mensch doc.” Good luck finding a specialist in due time. There are endless anecdotes of patients being told that the next available date for an important surgery is many months down the line, given the scheduling backlog.
(4) Let us suppose that you are facing a medical emergency. Have no fear, as our Canadian system is free and generous. You’ll only have to wait 8-14 hours in a hospital waiting room (as did my wife when she experienced a medical situation whilst pregnant with our first child). You might die while waiting but at least it is “free.”
(5) The failure of our Canadian healthcare system is so apparent (and so unsustainable) that in the last few years many Canadians have had to enroll in private health insurance programs! I recently experienced debilitating lower back pains rendering me nearly immobile for several days. I could have sought the services of our “free” healthcare but this would have meant that I would have likely waited six months to see a physiatrist. He/she would have then ordered me to have some MRI images done, which would have taken a few more months at the “free hospital.” On the other hand, since I pay for private healthcare insurance, the problem was addressed in less than one week. Hence, not only do I pay exorbitant taxes to fund a healthcare system that is utterly broken but also I must enroll in private healthcare programs (as would the average American) to avoid having to participate in the “free” system that I already paid for!
I do not wish to imply that some form of universal health coverage is a bad idea. On the contrary, any civilized and compassionate society should provide the requisite safety net to protect its most downtrodden citizens. However, it is important for Americans to recognize that the fantasy that you are fed regarding our Canadian healthcare system is an utter hoax. The existing American healthcare model might indeed require some “compassionate” restructuring but don’t use romanticized “unicorn” fantasies of our Canadian healthcare system as the ideal archetype to which you aspire.
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