Unless you are living in a cave, you know that last month the Supreme Court made one of its most controversial decisions since Roe vs. Wade. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four “liberal” members of the court and upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Many Americans who were upset about the decision vented that anger on Twitter. I find it bizarre that many Americans tweeted about “moving to Canada” to enjoy better medical care.
“I’m moving to Canada, the United States is entirely too socialist,” tweets @wallyweldon.
“The supreme court upheld Obama Care. That’s it. I’m moving to Canada!” tweets @lucasdargis.
As an American who has spent more than half my life living in Canada, I want to say this to wallyweldon and anyone else who is packing his bags: Stop! Even if Obamacare remains, the quality of medicine has a long way to fall before it will reach the rock-bottom levels that my wife Angie and I live with in Canada.
A Typical Trip To The Doctor
The red light on the old alarm clock read 7:00. The morning news began with the top stories. It was the first Monday of the month, so my wife and I began our pilgrimage to the emergency clinic in Calgary, Canada. My extended family saw one doctor for 40 years; but because he retired and there are so few doctors in family practice, we now have to visit day clinics.
This particular Monday was during winter. A blizzard had rolled in off the Rocky Mountains, making the roads almost impassable. We felt strong enough to walk 3/4 of a mile in snow-drifted sidewalks to the clinic to get the prescriptions we need for Angie’s lupus and my asthma.
The real emergencies the clinic deals with every day are a shortage of doctors and waves of patients. Some of the patients, like us, just want a refill of a prescription; others are junkies, looking for a sympathetic doctor to give them their fix.
It might seem ridiculous to walk through a blizzard to get refills of medications that we have both been taking for years. But that’s universal healthcare in Canada.
You can’t simply phone your doctor and ask him to call in a refill. That is against the rules. Under the guidelines here, prescription renewals have to be personally handed out during an office visit. This allows the doctor to pocket the same fee he would get if he were attending someone with a broken leg.
By 8 a.m., we saw the illuminated lights of the clinic through the falling snow.
The clinic doesn’t open until 9 a.m. but a line had already started on the front steps of the clinic. There were no benches, so the people in line huddled beneath the snow.
We were lucky that day. The snowstorm made it difficult for people to arrive early. Only four others were ahead of us; more than a dozen were behind us.
There was a complication. The snowstorm had delayed the clinic staff. At 9:15 a.m., the doors opened. We dutifully walked in and collected our numbers — just as I did as a kid at the barbershop. Over the next half hour, we sat and waited for our number to be called.
Checking in allows us to be seen by the “doctor of the day.” Chances are about one in two that we have met him before, because they rotate in the city.
At 10 a.m. we were called to the examining room. The handsome doctor with a Polish accent seemed genuinely to care. (Often, the doctors are desperately tired or simply fed up with their job.) He took a few minutes to learn about our ailments. Then he passed us our prescription slips. At 10:30 a.m., three hours after we began, we began the walk home.
Medical care in Canada seems like the Dark Ages. It has been especially hard for us because, just more than a decade ago, we would make appointments in Spokane, Wash., to see our doctors at Rockwood Clinic. There, fine coffee was served in china cups, and rarely was the length of the waiting-room stay more than a few minutes.
No ‘Free’ Car Wash
Two decades ago, I was sitting in the showroom of Sutherland Mercedes, a car dealership in downtown Spokane. The shop in the back was changing the oil on my 20-year-old 300D Mercedes-Benz.
As I sat in the corner, a respected cardiologist was looking at a new car with his second wife. She couldn’t have yet been 30; he was pushing 60. The salesman showed them the most expensive Mercedes sedan on the showroom floor. The wife loved it. To close the deal, the salesman mentioned that, if they bought the car, they could have free car washes from the dealership for as long as they owned it.
“You hear that?” gushed the wife. “Free car washes!”
I had to stifle myself. Across that very street was the Lincoln dealership with the then-new Town Car. If you bought it, you didn’t get a free car wash. However, the Lincoln cost half what the Mercedes did.
That sums up healthcare in Canada. Almost everyone up here thinks Canada has “free healthcare.” The truth is Ottawa and the provinces foot the bill for universal healthcare. It is a spending program that has made Canada’s government debt levels soar.
Canadians have become so indoctrinated that even intelligent people don’t account for the fact that the average family in Canada pays roughly 50 percent of their income in taxes each year just to fund the healthcare system.
To meet the growing expense, governments will have to raise taxes and even further reduce the quality of healthcare. While this is not a winning blueprint for a society, it seems that the U.S. Supreme Court is willing to embrace it.
Perhaps the justices should have read this quote in The New York Times on Feb. 28, 2006: “This is a country (Canada) in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years.”
Calgary has many great things going for it. It is a hub for energy and a progressive city in so many ways. Yet I miss the United States and the healthcare system. In the United States, doctors had the time to treat patients like patients — not just a number in line.
Yours in good times and bad,
Editor, Myers’ Energy & Gold Report