Canadian/UK Citizen Healthcare Poll

In America we have millions of dollars pouring into campaigns to create as much FUD about national health care as possible. They tell us what a shambles it is in other nations, and how you’re all clawing to come here to get your medical stuff done because your systems don’t work.

They apparently didn’t think we could ask actual CA and UK citizens about it. So I am. How is it?

I was born and raised in the U.K. and moved to Canada as an adult so have experienced both systems, for a variety of treatments. However, I can’t really speak intelligently about the U.K. system, because I haven’t lived there in 23 years, but anecdotally (I’ve had a serious back operation and my gall bladder removed, plus minor breaks and sprains) the Canadian system has been terrific for me. And I would pay into it even if I never took advantage of it, because I believe we have an obligation to each other and it’s the right thing to do. I have zero complaints about our healthcare system.

Here’s a piece that Cory Doctorow linked to recently, with his notes:

Rhonda Hackett, a Canadian expat clinical psychologist living in the US, has an editorial in the Denver Post with a good round-up of myths and truths about Canadian health care. I’ve lived under the Canadian, US, British and Costa Rican health care systems and of the four, I believe that the Canadian one functions best (I’d rank them Canadian, British, Costa Rican and US). My experience with all four includes routine and urgent care. I’ve had firsthand experience of pre-and post-natal care in Canada, the US and the UK; I’ve also seen the Canadian, US and UK palliative care system in action.
On the other hand, I believe that the UK system of caring for elderly people is better than the others; Costa Ricans have better services for rural people; and the US has a better culture of retail service (outside of healthcare) than anywhere else I’ve lived.

Myth: Taxes in Canada are extremely high, mostly because of national health care.
In actuality, taxes are nearly equal on both sides of the border. Overall, Canada’s taxes are slightly higher than those in the U.S. However, Canadians are afforded many benefits for their tax dollars, even beyond health care (e.g., tax credits, family allowance, cheaper higher education), so the end result is a wash. At the end of the day, the average after-tax income of Canadian workers is equal to about 82 percent of their gross pay. In the U.S., that average is 81.9 percent.

Myth: Canada’s health care system is a cumbersome bureaucracy.
The U.S. has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care in the U.S. goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, profits, etc. The provincial single-payer system in Canada operates with just a 1 percent overhead. Think about it. It is not necessary to spend a huge amount of money to decide who gets care and who doesn’t when everybody is covered.

Debunking Canadian health care myths

Not been an overly heavy user of the NHS over here in the UK but everytime I have used it service has been prompt (exactly when I wanted it), caring (staff who seemed to actually give a toss that I was totally almost dead from man-flu) and competent. I know of noone personally who has had any significant problems from their dealings with the NHS and if you really don’t like it you can always pay up and go private with BUPA or someone like that.

Taxes haven’t crippled me yet and I love that for me I never even have to think about healthcare when I have a health problem. There is just a small piece of card that says ‘give this man whatever he needs for he is in the UK’ and I can stroll into the local doctors, a hospital or even a 24 hour clinic and get treated. Noone ever asks me if I can afford the treatment or for my policy details its 100% laser focused on getting you healthy and back to your life.

In short I love the NHS and wouldn’t trade it for the American system ever. Its so good that even our rich toff party rave about it all the time these days and have made NHS nurses their new target voting group.

Thought I’d add some polling data:

From 1998:

Since which time the NHS has seen a very large increase in its funding which was widely seen as a success in bringing down waiting lists, still even then check these stats:

Thats around a 90% satisfaction rate despite the long waiting lists commonly complained about at the time. Not bad especially when you consider the amount of insanity present in the UK shown by this statistic:

Sadly nowadays it is, in the very limited form of a single homeopathy centre in London, and is pretty much my only complaint about the NHS.

For all its faults, the NHS is actually very good and despite the government’s best efforts to reduce everything to ticks on a target sheet, they have poured money into it compared to how it was under the Tories and while not all of that has been spent wisely, what treatment my family’s had to have has turned up quickly and been carried out with the minimum of fuss.

I remember waiting 8 hours with a shattered wrist as a teenager just to be seen by a doctor in the late 80’s and being seen within minutes a year or so ago with some mystery condition and being ultrasounded, x-rayed and generally prodded and poked within 24 hours of turning up at the doctors.

Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. Would I scrap it tomorrow for a US style health service? Never.

Canadian here.
Our healthcare system isn’t perfect, but it is much more appealing than the American no-system-at-all. I’ve had surgery here, back when I was in university and unemployed. It didn’t incur crippling debt for me or my family; reading stories about Americans having to mortgage their homes to pay medical expense makes me quite happy with our system.

Several years ago, I was biking around Stanley Park in Vancouver with two coworkers during an afternoon break from work. One of my coworkers is a downhill rider so he was jumping. I have a cross-country bike and decided to try to ride down a hill and jump a root/rock, about two feet off the ground. Stupid me forgot to pull back the front wheel, so I went over the handle bar and landed on my head and shoulder. I woke up from my concussion minutes later (the first thing I did was to wiggle my toes to make sure I didn’t have any spinal injuries).

My coworkers called an ambulance and I was taken to the downtown hospital ER. Since we were just on a break I didn’t have my wallet with me. The front desk clerk just asked for my full name, my address and phone number so she could look up my BC Care Card number in the database. The only other people in the ER were a couple of drunks. In the end, I had x-ray taken and painkillers. The only bill I got charged with was $25 for the ambulance.

Two years ago I had another biking accident on my way to work. A tourist stepped back into the bicycle lane of the Burrard Bridge so I breaked really hard and I went over my handle bars, landing on them. When I arrived at work I called my family doctor’s office and he could see me asap. Since my doctor has my BC Card Card on record, his office electronically bills the government health insurance for my visit. He said that I didn’t break any ribs as I landed on the cartilige but nonetheless he sent me to get x-rays taken. The x-ray lab, in the same medical building, charged to my BC Card Card.

Many years ago, I had a benign tumour on the top of my head. My family doctor booked a room at a local hospital and she performed the minor surgery of cutting out the tumour from my scalp. I didn’t pay a single cent for the out patient surgery.

Despite what the GOP fear monger say, not once does a government bureaucrat steps in between my doctor and me. If my family doctor recommends I go see a specialist, I find a specialist and go there. All billed to the government health insurance plan.

Family doctors bill to the government health insurance plan and get paid per patient visit (I think there’s a maximum they can bill…). This means that many people don’t have family doctors as the GPs can’t see any more patients. This situation has lead some GPs to go into business together to set up walk-in clinics so they can see more patients than they could individually see.

Well, its nice to know that in many ways Desslock was full of shit.

I remember years ago back in Ontario that people would lend their OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) cards to their American relatives across the border in order to see doctors for free. This was because the OHIP cards at the time did not have photo ID. The BC Care Card currently doesn’t have photo ID.

I’ve not had to have any dealings with a hospital in a long-time, touch wood - last time was about a decade ago when I broke my wrist. I was about 13 at the time, and a combination of pain and painkillers has meant my memory of the process isn’t all that sharp, but I remember it being pretty decent all round. Got me in, little bit of a wait but nothing major, then splinted and cast me fairly swiftly thereafter. The mid-level stuff members of my family have gone in for from time to time has been well sorted out too.

I would never change it for a US-system - I’m happy to pay taxes, I’m happy for everyone to get roughly equitable treatment, and I am completely happy not to have to potentially cough up exorbitant sums of money in the face of any potential vicissitudes of fate to try and keep myself or someone I love healthy.

I must admit that I really don’t get why there is such resistance to universal healthcare in the US, it’s cheaper than what you’ve got and it doesn’t mean having to sell your worldly posessions because your insurance company doesn’t think it’s cost effective to give you that simple treatment.

Ok so you’d have to pay a little bit more tax but surely that can’t be the sole reason for the resistance to it?

I don’t really feel strongly about it one way or the other, since I haven’t been a heavy user of it either. I needed urgent surgery a few years ago, but that went pretty smoothly, and it only took a couple of hours in the ER to get a diagnosis and an ultrasound done (though it was at 5am when it wasn’t that busy, too). I’m fine with it the way it is, on the “if it ain’t broke…” principle.

It also took my mother about four or five months to get a hip replacement, and I’m not sure how that compares to the US. An uncle of mine has been plagued with constant joint problems his entire life, and he’s always managed to get the treatments and surgeries needed, though I don’t really know what his private thoughts are on how happy he’s been with it.

I linked to a quote about that in my first post.

I have some pals who live in Washington and they think the resistance is because, to an American, socialised anything sounds too much like Communism. But that feels a little simplistic and binary to me, and a bit outdated.

Much of the resistance is due to the over fifty years of propaganda and government lobbying by various groups opposed to universal health care. There are entire generations of Americans who have been fed the story that socialized health care is BAD and that citizens of France, Britain, and Canada have some of the worse health care around. We are constantly told the lie that our health system works and is the best in the world, while in reality tens of millions of Americans languish in debt from medical bills.

The watered down health care “reform” bills that are making their way through the US congress right now are a direct result of the $$$ that is pumped into congressmen by the health care industry. Its about money, and its always been about money. Our government is run by business.

p.s. The rumor going around conservative/Republican circles right now is that the US health care reform bills include a provision to kill old people. I kid you not.

Having experienced both the US and Canadian systems I much prefer the Canadian one and it was a factor in my choice to come back. I just don’t have to think about it here and that peace of mind is exceptional.

I can’t honestly understand why anyone would prefer the private system in the US. I saw almost nothing that it did better and almost everything was a bigger hassle and more expensive. I think Americans are flat out idiots for supporting their system as it is.

There’s an anti-medicare ad in the US right now that features a Canadian woman who said that she had to wait six months for her brain tumour surgery and that she would have died! The ad doesn’t mention that she borrowed money from relatives and took out a second mortgage to pay for her surgery in the US.

However, Canadian health experts are saying that her claims are an exaggeration because if her brain tumour was serious, she would have been treated the next day. But since her tumour was benign and slow growing she was put on a six month waiting list.

It seems that just about everybody in my family dies of cancer. My father had over a decade of serious health complications before he passed away, and my mother is a breast cancer survivor. The stellar quality of health care they both received was incredible.

My girlfriend nearly died several years ago due to a sudden infection which led to massive organ failure and internal bleeding. The hospital they took her to was affiliated with a university that was developing an experimental medication which was the Hail Mary pass that kept her alive. The figure that got tossed around was $10,000 a dose.

If it wasn’t for our health care system, my girlfriend would be dead, and both our families would probably be bankrupt. I don’t know what other systems are like around the world, but I’m glad that the treatment decisions for people I love was based only on the best options to get them better and not any factors beyond that.

I probably don’t have a sufficient understanding of the issues surrounding nationalizing health care in the US, but from my experience, I’m kind of surprised that it’s even an issue, and astonished at some of the fearmongering I’ve seen (granted, it comes from the Daily Show, so I’m sure I’m only getting the creme de la crazy of the opposition).

I’m actually both (Dual National) but I haven’t been back to Canada in around twenty years. I’m twenty-two, by the way.

My experience with the NHS has been great. I went into the RUH in Bath, a hospital with an awful reputation, with suspected appendicitis. I was in surgery the next day, no complications at all. The consultant came around a couple of days later and told me they were keeping me in the ward as I had large amounts of bacteria in the sample they took, so there was a risk. I stayed until the all-clear came a day later. The only problem I had was a junior doctor, just finished her degree and doing her clinical school period, taking a few goes to get a cannula in, and that’s hardly surprising.

That’s my total hospital experience. Out-patient and GP care has been outstanding too, although the doctors tend to be a little busy and over-worked and it can be quite a wait to book an appointment. That said, they always keep a bunch of slots open every day so you can phone in the morning of that day and try to get an appointment. I think every GP I have had did home-calls as well.

The problems with the NHS are that there aren’t enough staff, too many managers and not enough money for the very latest equipment. There’s always a problem with trying to see a specialist, which is good and bad. My brother had bad acne and no medication would clear it up. To see the dermatologist publicly would have been a couple of months, but we knew her so she saw us privately for a single session+. We needed her diagnosis to prescribe a horrendously expensive pill, Roaccutane, (the hospital asked us to return any we didn’t use, it was so expensive), which is pretty much standard procedure and I’m fine with that. This was a few years ago.

That doesn’t mean it’s not amazing, nor that it is perfect. MRSA and C. difficile are still problematic, as one example. It has, as Nellie noted, improved hugely over the last decade or so. Part of that is that the public and media go crazy over any potential problems in the NHS, so governments have to keep an eye on it. I would never swap this system for an American one, and I say that as someone who had private health insurance for a few years.

The French probably have the best health care in the world, I don’t think there is too much of a problem in saying that.

+Many, many doctors do private and NHS practices, but private is normally per-appointment. Normally only specialists such as dermatologists etc.

There is not all that much resistance to it, at least among the people.

You’ve got your people who think the government can’t run anything right, and that there will be rationing. Never mind that that already happens. I can only get $1,500 of dental benefits a year, for instance, which I’ve already tapped out months ago for a root canal.

You’ve got your people who think it will be more expensive, even though we already spend more per capita than any socialized system, while premiums continue to rise and a huge percentage of the “capitas” don’t get any benefit whatsoever.

You’ve got people who simply want to stop democrats to prove that the democrats, and in some cases, negroes, are inferior.

Then you’ve got a couple of “democrats”, who think all the campaign contributions they’ve gotten from health insurance companies outweighs what Obama could get for an opponent in upcoming primaries.

On the other side, there’s about 70% of Americans.

From my experience:


Hospitals: Scary places on a Friday/Saturday night in Casualty. Really scary. Slow, overworked, seemingly uncaring (nurses chatting while you suffer); end product acceptable.

Dentists: Acceptable. If you are get on the list of one, which is almost impossible to do.

Doctors: Good, if you can get an appointment. Last time I tried to do this I was told I had to call before 8am the day I wanted to see him, or forget it. Then when I was finally seen, I was palmed off with two nurses because the doctor was too busy to see me.


Hospitals: Fantastic. Clean, efficient, friendly and even English speaking. Casualty was nearly empty on a Friday night, and no fights or drunks. Got amazing after service.

Dentists: Excellent, and a huge choice and much cheaper than the UK. They have far more dentists per head.

Doctors: Good. Easy to get on the list, and easy to make an appointment, but they keep bizarre hours. They also work on a specialist system, so you get to see a GP and then he books you in with a specialist on another day (time consuming).


Hospitals: Not used one yet, but have been warned off by several westerners. Whenever there is a small problem, like too much ice causing fall injuries, they start turning patients away.

Doctors: I use a private doctor, and they are excellent.

Dentists: Excellent and very cheap. The only problem is making sure that you aren’t seen by some cowboy dentist, as the regulations seem to be laxly enforced here.


Doctor: Only used one once, and he was very good. No problem getting on the list, even though I was only a temporary visitor.

Canadian here.

There are some horror stories, especially about getting some things diagnosed early, because there are waits for specialists and special equipment, and emergency is always overflowing, but having American friends and just hearing their regular stories - I don’t mean horror stories - makes me so glad I never emigrated to the US.