Fred Anderson, Dunseith
I have lived in North Dakota near the U.S./Canadian border for more than 30 years. When the subject of health care comes us I hear North Dakotans telling one another how poor the Canadian health care system is compared to the American. What Americans hear from one another is that Canadians have poor quality health care, long waits to see a specialist, and higher taxes. North Dakotans have told me that they have friends and relatives living in Canada who tell them how dissatisfied Canadians are with their health care.
So one day my wife and I decided to take a trip to Manitoba and ask Canadians about their health care. We asked them about quality, availability, and cost of health care. We asked them about the strengths and weaknesses of their health care system. The first Canadian I talked with said, "Let me tell you, being born in Canada, I feel like I won the lottery. I can't say enough good things about our health care." He was a retired public school educator.
We talked with small business owners, farmers, hourly employees, construction workers, teachers, and retirees. We asked them if they preferred the American health care system to the Canadian one. Not one of them would exchange their health care program for the American health care system. For 40 years one of my best friends has lived and worked in three Canadian provinces, British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon. Most of his extended family live in Michigan. He told me, "Not one of my relatives in the U.S.A., with the exception of my brother living in Boston, has near the quality of health care that my family has in Canada."
Canadians also ask my wife and I about what health care costs in the United States. When we share how much we pay in federal taxes plus health care insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, the Canadians tell us we pay a lot more than they do for the same thing and in Canada everyone is covered. And then there is the cost of drugs. I once filled a name-brand prescription in Boissevain, Manitoba, for $100. The same prescription in North Dakota cost $1,000. The drug: tamoxifen.
For six years now my wife and I have discussed health care with Canadians from several provinces. They realize their system isn't perfect. I'm not saying one can't find Canadians who aren't happy with their health care. I am saying we haven't talked with a single Canadian willing to exchange his Canadian health care program for the American way of providing health care, not one. When we asked them is they "like" their Canadian health care, everyone said, "Yes."
If we want to improve health care in the United States and contain costs, lets take a look at what works and doesn't work in Canada. I'm not suggesting we duplicate Canadian health care in America, but if Canadians like their health care as much as they have told me they do, shouldn't we at least look at what works in Canada? In other words, instead of listening to Americans criticize health care in Canada, maybe we should ask the Canadians.