Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Meditating on Health Care

This story, about a 27-year old in Texas who was taken off life support because she couldn't pay her bills, inspires me to do a little cross-border comparison of health care.

A lot of people up in Canada talk about waiting times, or about how universal health care doesn't work, and how you should be able to pay for faster service (i.e. the rich should be able to jump the queue). They point to the U.S. model as an example of private health care working.

Well, these people have never lived in the U.S. They're comparing apples and oranges. They're comparing the best-case situation in the U.S. to the worst-case in Canada.

I have supposedly excellent health insurance here in the U.S. I'm healthy, well paid, live in a safe area. Yet I'm still petrified of getting sick. If I were hospitalized, the deductible would still break me, on my overpaid attorney salary. I have to pick doctors who accept my insurance. The insurance might fight over whether or not the service is covered. If I lose my job, I lose my coverage. Let's say I got a chronic disease, or cancer, and didn't have health care - companies could easily decide not to extend coverage to me. And I'm considered to have good coverage, unlike the 40% or so of Americans who have none.

My now-ex and I were once in San Fran., and said ex had some sort of allergies reaction to something, involving swelling and blotches. Said ex didn't want to go to a doctor, even though it was a bit scary, not out of laziness or machismo or something, but because ex's health care wasn't very good and probably wouldn't cover a doctor visit. (It didn't, and the bill was some $600).

Sure, in Canada you might have to wait a bit for elective surgery. But at least people aren't dying because they can't pay.

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