The last thing on my mind as my husband and I headed toward our vacation destination was health care reform.
It is a topic that has flooded my consciousness for the last several years and I was looking forward to the respite while we got away from it all in Canada.
Almost everyone we encountered was eager to bring it up, assuming that we would be ecstatic about the passage of health care reform. “You finally passed health care!”
They were well-aware of our country’s rancorous debate and criticisms of the Canadian system. Even those who have complaints about Canadian health care took offense to the unfair and erroneous characterizations used by opponents of health care reform here in the states.
My husband and I were supporters of reform and are, in fact, happy that something passed. Still, our lukewarm reaction caught people by surprise.
I offer no sweeping generalizations about how Canadians think. Our conversations with our northern neighbors were limited in number and by no means constitute a scientific polling. But the people we spoke with were shocked to learn the facts about the legislation, given all the commotion about a government takeover of health care. “So everyone won’t have health care?”
No, everyone won’t be covered. But it was our personal situation that confounded them. That’s because we are among the millions of Americans who will find it difficult, if not impossible, to remain insured for the next few years. Our new Canadian friends gasped when we mentioned our monthly premiums. “A month? Don’t you mean a year?”
When we listed our deductibles, co-pays, and approximate yearly increases, the picture became clearer. There is little in the legislation to help us at this point. Neither my husband nor I (a 50 year-old female with multiple sclerosis) have access to group coverage. Our personal stress level has not decreased since passage of legislation.
We’re thrilled that health care reform passed and we are finally on our way to improving access for tens of millions of Americans who previously had none. Even before this year is over we will see major improvements like the end of rescissions for sick people and a temporary national high-risk pool. In the future, insurers will no longer be able to legally reject people with pre-existing conditions. These important safeguards were hard-won, long overdue, and will have a positive impact on millions of people.
But the battle for comprehensive health care reform is far from over. I’m not talking about the battle to repeal reform, either. Those of us who supported overhauling the health system still have our work cut out for us. We will continue to fall far short of universal coverage and without a public option, too much power remains in the hands of for-profit insurers. Affordability will still be a major problem for middle America.
Health care reform is not a sprint; it is a long-distance race, one which we’ve only just begun.
The Canadian system is far from perfect. It, too, is a work in progress. No system will ever meet the needs of all its people all of the time. The wealthy will always have access to bigger and better things and that’s okay. There will always be criticisms of whatever system is in place and that’s okay, too. It takes criticism to make improvements.
Basic care for all citizens should be the goal. Canada embraces that principle and I think we should, too.
I have lots of extended family in Canada. Not one of them would trade their health care situation for mine. That hasn’t changed with the passage of the the Patient’s Affordable Health Care Act. Not even close. When the day comes that they look to their neighbors to the south and envy our access and affordability, then we’ll know we’ve succeeded.
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Thank you to our Canadian friends and family for your warm hospitality, graciousness, and engaging conversation.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Scazon
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