Watching the health care debate in the US is nothing so much as frustrating for Canadians (and as far as I can see, Britons, and other) because of the myriad and obscene lies that are being told about the health care systems we live with and access every day.
The two biggest horror stories that American enemies of health care reform seen to be able to hurl at the Canadian system are 1) Canadians go to the US to get health care that is denied them, or to skip waiting lists, and 2) There are appalling delays in Canada for treatment.
As for 1), yeah, a small number of people from Canada go to the US for treatment every year. Bully for them. Through my work, I'm also familiar with Canadians who go to India or Malaysia in any given year for things like Lasik surgery, or cosmetic surgery. Those things aren't covered under Canada's public health care, and are cheaper in those countries, but just as well-done. It's kind of a vacation-cum-surgery retreat. All that means, in fact, is that we have more choice
in our health care, if we are able and choose to drop some dinero.
As to 2), in my experience getting access to diagnostic testing has never
had a delay attached... seeing a specialist or having the related treatment based on the diagnosis may have a delay of a few weeks. But I've never experienced it, nor has Husband. Nor our extended families. And I've had a lot
of experience with the Canadian health care system, bud. I lost count of my surgeries some years back - after they fixed me for good. Back in the early 90s my medical team was jokingly calling me the "million-dollar woman" because that's what they estimated my care had cost to date.
But what Americans seem to miss about Canadian healthcare allocation is that it is urgency-based. I've never ever experienced a delay in getting diagnostic tests nor seeing a specialist nor getting the related treatment because my issues were usually quite urgent.
Elective treatments - such as hip or knee replacements - by far make up the great bulk of delays in the Canadian health care system, regardless of what you've read or heard. And even then, I've never really experienced delays - when I went deaf I was immediately fast-tracked to an ENT who I was told later had a 6-week waiting list. And my hearing wasn't coming back, folks.
As for beaurocrats who deny you coverage... I'm simply baffled by the concept. I mean, I suppose such people may exist. It's just that every decision I've ever made with a doctor or surgeon has taken place in the consulting room, and I am simply unaware of any system whereby someone vets those decisions and says "no". In fact, I would propose that in a country where we worship our health care system, any such denial would result in the patient's family going directly to the media and a firestorm of trouble for the beaurocrats and politicians involved.
Much of the difference in the Canadian system and the way the American media choose to present it is in attitude. The whole system - like Britain's NHS or other developed countries' public health care - is based on a fundamental belief in health care as a shared asset that everyone should have access to, regardless of circumstance. My 79-year-old mother-in-law* has been offered a hip replacement at her leisure. She has chosen not to take it because she feels that that surgery should be performed on someone younger who would get more use out of it. (We disagree, but it's her decision.) I've written before that if given the option of a second implant on the other side, I'd probably turn it down because that money could instead go towards a surgery for a deaf toddler.
I dunno. Mostly I hope that some kind of reform will be stuffed through somehow with a public option so that Americans can start experiencing it, and understanding the great peace and comfort from never having to worry that a catastrophic illness will bankrupt them and their extended family.
*Husband informs me that mother-in-law is 79, not 69 as I originally posted. So much for the "denying care to the elderly" myth.