Many left-wing thinkers in the United States tend to lavish in the idea of more government in our healthcare system. A few months ago, President Obama wrote in the Journal for the American Medical Association that “Congress should revisit a public plan to compete alongside private insurers in areas of the country where competition is limited.”
Others on the left want to take this notion a step further and eliminate private sector involvement in healthcare altogether. Throughout the entire campaign season, candidate Bernie Sanders advocated that “the only long-term solution to America’s healthcare crisis is a single-payer national healthcare program”. Those in support of this notion often cite that other developed countries offer government programs and by doing so operate far more efficiently.
It begs the question: are their claims warranted? Based on my personal experience with Canada’s government run single-payer healthcare, those that think there are immense benefits to this system are sadly mistaken.
During a visit in the summer of 2015, my left arm buckled and my body jerked to the left while performing an inverted bench press. The trainer at first looked concerned, but after noticing that I could move my arm told me that I most likely would not need extra medical attention. For a few weeks it seemed all was well, but as time passed I felt increasingly discomforted in my neck and shoulder area. Eventually, I decided to go see a physiotherapist to make sure nothing was wrong.
After the second session with the physiotherapist, it became clear to her that I needed to get referred to a neurologist in order to verify whether a more serious injury occurred during my weight lifting accident. They told me to go to the local emergency room and discuss my symptoms in hopes of getting a proper referral.
Upon arriving at the hospital I noticed that, not surprisingly, the waiting room was filled nearly to the brink. In previous experiences with Canada’s clinics and hospitals I found myself waiting upwards of eight plus hours for service, so anything less than that I considered a pleasant surprise.
Three hours passed and then I was led to a room to talk about my symptoms with a doctor. He looked stressed out and in no mood for long stories, so I kept my description brief and to the point.
Before finishing my request for a referral to a neurologist, he interrupted me, saying that due to union laws it was not his place to formally refer me to a specialist and that referrals could only come from my family doctor. As a visitor to the country for only the summer, I did not have a family doctor to see, so I asked if there were any alternative options or recommendations he would be willing to make.
His response at the time surprised me. He said, “I can suggest some good family doctors, but even if you go to one for a referral, the odds are that you will be waiting well over a year for a neurologist. If this is urgent, you would be much better off crossing the border into Buffalo. They have an abundance of specialists and private health clinics that can offer you service within days.”
The doctor was right. After looking into what he said, I managed to find a wide range of specialists that could take my appointment right away. If I wanted to, I had the ability to meet with multiple specialists within the same day. Due to the wide variety of options and efficient service, Buffalo’s healthcare services allowed for me to see a neurologist promptly. They even referred me for an MRI on my shoulder for potential rotator cuff problems, though I opted to wait until going back home to the Midwest to exercise that recommendation. I managed to book an appointment within a few days after returning.
This experience made me forever grateful of the widespread efficient services the United States offers to all of its citizens, but I also felt bad for all of the Canadians stuck with waiting months and years for services that were readily available elsewhere. After the contrast in care the two countries offered to me, it is reassuring to know that if something goes wrong while in Canada and I cannot get an MRI in a timely manner, then those south of the border can save the day.
For many Canadians, crossing the border into the United States or elsewhere for non-emergency treatment is a common trend. The Fraser Institute, a prominent Canadian think-tank revealed that in 2014, more than 52,000 Canadians went abroad for medical treatment. In essence, if the Canadian government cannot properly accommodate for thirty-two million people, then what makes universal healthcare advocates think imposing this kind of system among three hundred and thirty million people is a good idea?