Letter: U.S. needs universal, national health insurance

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I was impressed by the logic and enthusiasm for universal health care expressed by Edgar Allen Beem in his “Medicare for All” column.

As a Canadian, born in the throes of the Great Depression of the 1930s, I grew up in the days when you got a bill from the doctor who visited your home, or from a hospital if and when you recovered sufficiently from an illness. I cheered when Tommy Douglas, the mildly left-wing premier of Saskatchewan, brought in Canada’s first Medicare program in 1947, and again in 1966, when publicly funded, universal national health insurance became law across Canada. Since then I’ve benefited from the system through several illnesses, without having to spend a cent of my own money for treatment.

Sure, wait times are an issue in some parts of Canada, but I’ve never had to wait more than several days for an appointment with my family doctor, or more than a couple of months to see a specialist. I can often get a diagnostic test from a medical clinic the same day, and not have to worry about the cost, because I know it’s covered by Medicare. While drugs, dental care and optometry are not included, I’ve been fortunate enough to have employer-paid coverage through my job.

I agree completely with Beem’s conclusion that America needs a publicly financed national health program, paid for by taxes as it is in Canada and most other civilized nations. Obamacare was a good start. I’m sure you in the States will get there eventually, though probably not in my lifetime (I’m 87).

John C. Ward
Scarborough, Ontario

  • EdBeem

    Thank you. Canada increasingly looks like a kinder, gentler America.

  • Chew H Bird

    Single payer is worth exploring. However, private delivery of services needs to be retained, (in my opinion). I have friends in Canada and they come to the US for a higher standard of care (which is determined (of course) by the actual medical issue).

  • poppypapa

    More than a couple of months to see a specialist. Wow; that’s great!

  • EdBeem

    From AARP:

    Myth #4: Canada has long wait times because it has a single-payer system.

    The wait times that Canada might experience are not caused by its being a single-payer system.

    Wait times aren’t like cancer. We know what causes wait times; we know how to fix them. Spend more money.

    Our single-payer system, which is called Medicare (see above), manages not to have the “wait times” issue that Canada’s does. There must, therefore, be some other reason for the wait times. There is, of course.

    In 1966, Canada implemented a single-payer health care system, which is also known as Medicare. Since then, as a country, Canadians have made a conscious decision to hold down costs. One of the ways they do that is by limiting supply, mostly for elective things, which can create wait times. Their outcomes are otherwise comparable to ours.

    Please understand, the wait times could be overcome. Canadians could spend more. They don’t want to. We can choose to dislike wait times in principle, but they are a byproduct of Canada’s choice to be fiscally conservative.

    Yes, they chose this. In a rational world, those who are concerned about health care costs and what they mean to the economy might respect that course of action. But instead, they attack the system.

    • Little crow

      Medicare is not really a single payor system, as insurance companies are involved and sometimes are the primary payer. A better example of a true single payer American system would be the Veteran’s Administration and its hospitals. That’s what our single payer system would look like writ large.

    • GOPatriot

      “Wait times” in Canada are known because they are measured. “Wait times” in the US are largely anecdotal.

      The other myth about Canadian healthcare is the number of Canadians coming to the US for healthcare. It has been investigated and the results, alas, do not follow the narrative……


    • poppypapa

      Ah….the AARP. Nothing political there.