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July 6th, 2009
11:27 AM ET

"We could end up like Canada"

The Senate's top republican, Mitch McConnell is sounding a warning about a Democratic plan for government-run health insurance. He says "the U.S. could wind up like Canada." So is that so bad? CNN's Dana Bash traveled to Ontario, Canada to find out.


Filed under: Controversy • Health
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Marc B

    Being a Canadian living in the USA, I experienced both systems.
    The coverage is a major problem that everybody is discussing but we have to talk about the Cost of Health Care in the US. If we increase the coverage to all Americans and the productivity is not improved, we have in front of us a big disaster.
    1. We have to reduce the cost, reduce the # of medical staff that we see in a single visit.
    2. Reduce the cost to educate new doctors, otherwise, we will have a shortage and foreign doctors will increase
    3. Create Government insurance for doctor malpractice
    4. Reduction of law suit in health care
    5. Creation of a national medication insurance exactly like Quebec did few years ago where you can have the private program and if you don’t have one, you are forced to join the government one.

    One element that we don’t discuss is the fact that HealthCare in Canada is a State (province) jurisdiction therefore; the Federal is not managing Healthcare but help funding the expenses. We have to ask the question if the US Federal Government is the appropriate organization to run Healthcare insurance.

    July 12, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  2. daniel

    Lets keep it simple. Let every US citizen log in to the same web site that
    senators do and buy health care at the same cost they do now or when they leave office. This won't require a new government agency. If it is good enough for them it is good enough for me.

    July 8, 2009 at 6:59 am |
  3. Jason

    I hear all this talk about "oh government run health care do you want a burocrat dictating wether or not you get the procedure you need" I live in Canada and have had many medical problems and never had a politician tell me I can't have a procedure. That is pure nonsense do not listen to those who speak such rubish.

    July 7, 2009 at 5:04 pm |
  4. Tina

    I think that we should have a Canadian type healthcare system. It is quite obvious that our system sucks now. It is solely run by greed. Greed of insurance companies, a lot of hospitals and doctors. I am sorry, they cannot justify the high cost of premiums, medications and treatments. The same prescriptions bought in another country is 50 to 75% less than what we pay. HOW IS THAT SO? It is called GREED. So call me a socialist. If a government run insurance is cheaper and better for us then let it be so! I am so tired of these politicians claiming that it will cost millions. WELL HELLO. What do you think it is costing us now. Wake up and smell the roses. Our country is ready for big change. Do you know that our country is the only country that does not have a government run healthcare and we are also the most expensive. Wake up people. A government run medical plan will not ruin lives, it will not deminish quality of care and it would be a hell of a lot cheaper. I am so tired of hearing about insurance companies dropping people for no reason or for a reason that is ludicrus. They run our lives and for what? So the hospitals, doctors and insurance companies can live in their McMansions and take trips to other countries two or three times a year. Give me a break. I want a government runned healthcare system. Let the private sector stay, but I will guarentee that they will loose money in droves once people realize that they will get the exact same care as private.

    July 7, 2009 at 12:43 am |
  5. sharon

    I am a Canadian. Americans, you should consider a couple of very important points regarding the interview with Hugh Segal.
    1. Our senators are not elected–they are appointed until the age of 75 and are NOT accountable to any Canadian voter.
    2. Our health care system is also unaccountable to any Canadian citizen who uses it. Yes, we have universal health care but we have no idea how much a medical procedure costs –it is paid through taxes–very HIGH taxes. Nationwide, 1/2 of our total provincial budgets are health care costs.
    3. We DO have long waiting lists and long emergency room line-ups-3-4 hours in Calgary Alberta seems to be the average wait time. Depending upon the time of week and year, it can be a day's wait. We cannot see a specialist without a referral from a GP and the wait time to see a specialist is months, if not a year for some specialties.
    4. Procedures ARE limited–for example, cataract surgery. You can wait for up to a year to have this surgery done. A colonoscopy has a wait list from 2-5 years!! I know this from having been on the list for 2 years. I cannot book any procedure myself, nor can I pay to have it done. I am at the mercy of the centralized system.

    Don't believe everything you read or hear about the Canadian system. Do some independent research and discover the truth.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:43 pm |
  6. Jacqueline

    I'm so tired of hearing biased reports on the Canadian healthcare system, that use scare tactics to frighten unknowing Americans against universal healthcare. As a Canadian RN who has lived in Florida for 17 years, I've seen cancer patients, who at diagnosis were at Stage IV, because they couldn't afford to see a Dr. until their symptoms brought them to an ER. Had they had access to healthcare, they would have been diagnosed at a much earlier stage and had a shot at survival. I've seen the elderly make decisions about food vs. medicine, I've seen families financially ruined because Mom or Dad had cancer, or a devastating car accident. I've seen people stay in jobs they loathe, because they couldn't afford to let their health insurance lapse. When are we going to wake up? We spend 2-3 times as much on healthcare than other industrialized nations, yet our infant mortality and overall survival numbers are lower. We have access to the best Dr's, medicines and machinery, but outcomes aren't any better. Wake up people, pay a little more in taxes, have cradle to grave coverage and live a happier, healthier life.
    Two years ago, Canadians voted Tommy Douglas, the politician who ushered in universal healthcare, greatest Canadian of all time. What does that tell you? That despite it's flaws, Canadians are proud of their healthcare system.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  7. Mark Coan

    Wolf, et al., It is not reasonable to asses and compare the Canadian Health System, or the US system, or any other, based upon anecdotal stories even if one from "each side" is revealed. And, descriptions of wait-times at a hospital are valueless, too, really. These are complex issues, immense businesses that have been studied from many perspectives analytically, and we are faced with a needed compromise, a decision which will be painful one way or t'other (and require constant adjustment / innovation)!! The present system doesn't work, not for the patient, the physician, or the hospital.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:06 pm |
  8. Purple Spider

    I said this once, I will say it again....Obama's Health Care Plan could be beneficial to those who have no coverage. Obama's Health Care Plan will not be beneficial to those who are covered and have their private doctor and have it taken away from them.
    What is sad about this, is that Washington does not take time to work out details that will help everyone – THEY JUST SHOVE EVERYTHING THROUGH AND DOWN ALL AMERICANS "THROATS"! That is not a democracy and that is not America! THAT IS BEING UNDER A DICTATORSHIP!

    July 6, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  9. RON TACKET

    You have to wonder at the hypocracy of congress. Each of them is covered by a Government run health care system at no cost to them. Yet Mcconnell and others oppose a similar program for the masses.

    July 6, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  10. Larry

    So what is McConnell's solution? Oh yeah, he's Republican. He doesn't have any solutions. Just criticism of people trying hard to fix what the Republicans have destroyed over the past eight years.

    Give it up McConnell. Your connections with special interests in Washington are about to be severed.

    July 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  11. Ed Keppel

    You talked about health care in Canada, your report made it sound like it was for free. It is not for free, they offer this free service thru higher taxes. The higher tax is not just on the wealthy, everyone in Canada is paying higher taxes because of the free health care.
    The cost of living in Canada is much higher than in the U.S.

    July 6, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  12. Rob Redfearn

    I am originally from Canada (moved here in 96)
    I grew up in a doctor's family and I also was married to one for 20 years.
    I am also a business owner AND a consumer of medical care. I have a perspective from both inside and outside the the system, on both sides of the border.
    I just had 2 disks removed from my neck and had the vertebrae fused. The total bill ("list price") was $107,000 and I was in the hospital for 26 hours TOTAL.

    I got the surgery quickly (under 4 weeks from diagnosis)... and had great care. My insurance covered all but the $1000 deductible. I pay $500/month for the insurance (blue cross).

    In Canada I would have waited a LONG time for the surgery (not to mention getting the MRIs Xrays, etc required before hand). It may have cost me "nothing" out of pocket ... but the care DOES cost.. its just paid in taxes. It would cost the same $500/month in insurance there as here.. its just coming out of tax dollars (which, make NO mistake, is STILL coming out of your pocket)

    The reason Canada's per capita cost is LESS than the US is because the average person does not get the average level of care available here in the US. ... and socialized medicine is ALL ABOUT THE AVERAGE!!! And, on average, I was NOT happy with the standard of care there, nor were my father or ex-wife happy with the standard of care dictated TO them by the government bureaucrats who were making the decisions as to whom got what level of treatment.

    As a business owner I am very wary of a plan imposed by government to ensure adequate care. However, I also recognize that my recent $100k surgery is one of the reasons healthcare costs (including the cost of insurance) is SO high!!!

    The solution is a hybrid of private and public and TWO levels of care is going to be inevitable. As always, we are gonna get what we pay for!!!

    July 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  13. Blaine Norum

    I was very disturbed by this morning's biased report on the Canadian health system. It was observed that some Canadians had to wait a long time for elective procedures. But, how does their wait compare to the lifelong wait of the 47 MILLION Americans without health insurance? You also failed to mention that the cost of the Canadian system is about 1/2 to 2/3 or ours per capita. If they spent as much per capita as we did waits would be nonexistent. You cited the fact that Canadian taxes are higher than ours but when you compare the sum of our taxes AND our health insurance premiums to their taxes then you get the real, and much different, picture. And the bottom line is this: the life expectancy in Canada is a full 2 years greater than in the US, even after you factor in variables such as murder rate, auto death rate, smoking rate, and our significantly greater propensity towards obesity.

    Having lived in both countries and used the health care systems of both countries I personally prefer the Canadian system. However, I recognize that Canadians and Americans are different peoples, with different histories, priorities, and world views. Hence, I would not argue strongly that we should adopt the Canadian system outright. I just wish we could have a factual discussion of its merits and drawbacks without distortions, without focusing on non-representative isolated cases, and without meaningless ideological labels.

    July 6, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  14. Jason

    Canadians may wait in the waiting room for a half hour to forty five minute. While most in the USA wait six or seven months to save up money it will cost in order to get a check up.

    July 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  15. Marissa

    My 79 year old aunt is going for a Dr. requested colonoscopy but could not afford the $75.00 for the prescription needed to cleans her colon. Because her SSI benefits were reduced drastically on a technicality she's unable to go for the necessary procedure. If we lived in Canada she would not have to worry about a $75 expense versus affording food for the month.

    What option is Mitch McConnell and the Republicans offering, oh yeah non. Their option is only to criticize the Obama administration instead of helping Americans.

    July 6, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  16. Patti

    No system will ever be perfect, and there are always exceptions to the rule. Canada is constantly working to improve its health care system, just as the US is...but I think we have much less work to do. Dana Bash's report seemed to only give lip service to the positive side of Canadian health care.

    Yes, we sometimes have long wait periods for treatment in Canada. But everyone in this country has equal access to quality health care, and if we're seriously ill, we get bumped to the top of the list...as it should be.

    We don't avoid the doctor as long as possible, hoping symptoms will go away because we can't afford the bills. As a consequence, many more major illnesses are caught early, in their more treatable stages. This has got to translate into lower health care costs per capita. People shouldn't have to lose their homes or go bankrupt because they got sick, and that's what's happening in the US because of your faulty healthcare "system."

    July 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  17. Jason

    Just a quick note. I'm a 32 year old Canadian with hypothyroidism and rheumatoid Arthritis if I lived in the states I would be homeless not being able to afford the doctors visits or medication. Our is not perfect but it's works for all people not just those with money.

    July 6, 2009 at 11:54 am |