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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 16, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Health care: the view from Canada and hope for single payer

You pay insurer’s profit margins, Canadians don’t

Mary Scott of Mount Vernon recently asked Canadians to share opinions on our single-payer health-care system with our American friends. Having had “universal health care” here since 1965 certainly gives us a bit of history on which to express an opinion.

The proof is really in the pudding as no politician here would ever discuss killing our public system in favor of a for-profit model, as they know they would be trounced out of office –if not tarred and feathered.

The math is very simple: We pay health-care costs. You pay health-care costs plus insurer’s profit margins. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which is higher.

Health care is a keystone of our Canadian democracy; we all share the pain, and we all share the responsibility of ensuring everyone gets covered. I suspect most Americans are much in the same vein of thought.

I myself have no complaints with our system, and although certain high-demand procedures like hip replacements do require waits, those are based on urgency of the requirement and not how many dollars you have in the bank. That’s very frustrating for some as they want their elective procedures pushed ahead of a poor grandma’s urgent requirement because they have a pocketful of money and those are the ones who go stateside and pay for treatment, which is fine. However, the vast majority of Canadians are satisfied with the overall system.

In most provinces there is no health-insurance premium, but here in B.C. we do pay a monthly fee. For my family of six that health insurance fee is $110 per month, which covers all doctor visits, hospital stays, surgical fees, etc. If one makes less than $25,000 per year, those premiums are reduced or eliminated entirely. Things not covered include drug costs, eyeglasses or elective procedures such as nose jobs or breast augmentation.

I go to whichever doctor I please and no government bureaucrat decides which tests or procedures I get; that would be my family doctor who makes those decisions. There is no such thing here as “pre-existing conditions,” and I have no fear that losing my job puts my family’s health care at risk since the two are totally independent of each other.

No Canadian has gone bankrupt due to medical bills. That peace of mind is a basic right of every Canadian, and though its not perfect, it is a very good system and worth exploration.

— Bill Kroesen, Vancouver, B.C.

I moved to Canada for its health care

I was born in Seattle and now live in Vancouver, B.C., after having lived 16 years in New York City. I returned to Vancouver because of the Canadian health-care system.

I recently visited some relatives in the U.S. and was shocked to see the ads on TV denigrating the Canadian system and giving a very distorted view of the services.

Sure there are some flaws — there are in any system — but for $96 a month, my husband and I, both in our 60s, have all of our medical needs addressed, including all our doctors visits, hospitalizations, emergency care, surgeons, etc. As current research on best practices in medicine are integrated into the system, I am sure it will be even better.

I feel sad to see such heavy-handed propaganda foisted on the American public by those who are afraid of losing their considerable profits in the U.S. health industry.

— Dr. Patricia J. Crawford, Vancouver, B.C.

Single-payer should at least be examined by Congress

President Reagan often chided Democrats with his famous line, “Well, there they go again.” I found myself mumbling, “Well, there they go again” after reading David Broder’s syndicated column [“Fault lines threaten health reform,” Opinion, July 12] and after watching President Obama’s nationally televised health-care reform town-hall program.

How can there be a serious health-care-reform debate without a mention of single-payer financing? Republicans and Democrats alike are wringing their hands trying to figure out how to pay for these reforms.

Dr. John Geyman, professor emeritus of Family Medicine at UW, informs us [“Don’t discard pay-go option,” Opinion, guest column, July 7] that “Single-payer financing … will yield savings of some $400 billion a year. That’s enough to assure universal coverage for all Americans while eliminating all co-pays and deductibles.”

The next step, according to Geyman, is for single payer to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO. Scoring is the process of estimating the federal budgetary cost or savings that would result from enacting a single-payer bill.

Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray sit on committees that are writing health-care reform legislation. Contact them and insist the CBO score single-payer.

We cannot afford to cede this debate to the big money of the insurance lobby.

— Richard Hodgin, Seattle

Comments | More in Health care, Reform

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