With all the debate going on in the US about health care I thought I would add our perspective after experience with both the US system in Atlanta and the Canadian system in Toronto. In our brief two years in Atlanta we unfortunately had two major uses of their health services. On the first occasion my husband had to go to emergency to check to see if he had a blood clot in his leg. He has a blood condition and had had one once before. He had first class service, they checked absolutely everything, found nothing, and we ended up with a bill for $10,000. Fortunately we had insurance through his employer where we had to pay the bill, send in the info to the insurance co, and get reimbursed. Just prior to paying the bill at the end of the month, my husband received a phone call from the billing office at the hospital who told him that if he paid the bill by the end of the month there would be a 50% discount! He thought he was hearing things! Because we were what they consider 'self pay' they were concerned that they would never get their money and so were trying to encourage us to pay by offering the discounted rate. Evidently the insurance companies get the discounted rate so we were getting offered the same deal. What really bothers us about this is that the people who don't have insurance are usually asked to pay the full rate. Once we knew about this discounting we then asked for, and generally got, a discount each time we went to the doctor or dentist. Even though we were insured we were always concerned about using medical services in case we were declined on claims or even dropped. The second event was when I had to have a small operation. Once again good service but very expensive, with separate bills coming in for weeks afterwards. The doctor, anesthetist etc bill separately. All this time the debate on healthcare was going on in the US. We felt that there was a lot of miss-information with regard to a government plan that covers everyone. There is also the idea that Canada, with it's universal care, is a socialist country and that to many Americans is bad. We live in the province of Ontario and each province has a slightly different government healthcare system. Since returning we have been very impressed with the care we have received. Because we were new to the area and didn't have a GP doctor we used the local walk in clinic for a couple of prescriptions etc. Within a few weeks the doctor there had us sent off to specialists get all the tests he felt we should be up to date with here in Canada. Then my husband cut his arm and ended up in emergency and had to return a week or so later to get a tendon reattached and then visit the hand clinic for multiple follow ups. We now have a GP within walking distance who we really like and who gave us the most comprehensive initial consultation we have ever had. All this and not one medical bill and the service has been fantastic. We also don't have to worry that we may not be covered or that we may be dropped from an insurance plan. If you need a hip replacement you may be put on a waiting list and be done according to need however if you have an emergency you are treated immediately. Some wealthy people may decide they don't want to wait and pay to have it done in the US but then that frees up the system for the less affluent. Our perspective is that if you are with a big company in the US and have great healthcare plan then it may be ok, however we feel it's pretty dreadful that a country with all that wealth doesn't have universal health care and care for it's less fortunate. I can't imagine how worrying it must be for all those people who have lost their jobs and benefits and cannot afford healthcare at all. Sure we pay considerably more taxes in Canada for all this but we feel it is a far more caring system. Just to add to this, we also lived in the UK from 2001 until 2007 and found the free healthcare there very good too. If you haven't watched the film Sicko you may find it interesting.
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