Canadian healthcare isn't as free as you think

The only people who blither on about the assumption that healthcare is ‘free’ in Canada are opponents of changing our system. Nobody else is stupid enough to fail to realize taxes pay for it.

US senators are currently on ACA plans and even though, as rich old people, they are probably buying the best ones the still face deductibles and co-pays larger than this once in a blue moon weird beuracratic screw up you once faced.

I was presented with a $6000 bill for a short hospital transfer ambulance ride 3 years ago despite having better than average employer provided insurance in the US. They dropped it to $4000 after a 30 minute phone call. This is a relatively mild horror story as such things go in the land of the weekly school shooting. No screw up. No bizarre confluence of events. No moving or job transitioning. Just how the system works.

$800. You are like a small child here.

Go whine to a European.

$800. I don’t think that is even the fourth largest medical bill I have paid, and I have never had one while uninsured. It’s certainly not in the top 3. I’ve never even had one while on high deductible insurance.


So, for context the out of pocket average cost, for an insured patient, for a standard physician visit is 50$ in the US. Even with insurance, the cost of.some common hospitalizations can come to more than 1000. In other words the US system at its best looks like the failure mode of the Canadian system.


I really think the title of this post has made people think it’s complaining about Canadian healthcare. I just took it as an FYI for people who aren’t familiar with it.


“Quondo omni flunkus, moritati”


I’m sorry but does anyone else suspect the name “Seamus Bellamy” is just as ridiculously contrived as “Cory Doctorow” or “Mark Frauenfelder”?

Fucking hell! Might as well call me “Litmus NPR-Surname” or “Juan-o Mexicano” or “Pierre Tiny-Frenchmustacchio”…

The only Boing-Boingers I trust anymore are the Severely Stoned Xeni or Lackadaisical Beschizza.

Disclaimer: Fake News™, Massively Steroidal Olympic Athletes from Russia®, and Bullets Flying Everywhere While Nobody Gives a Shit (© 2000-2030 Republican Nazi Party) may have left me paranoid as all fuck.


New Zealand healthcare sounds more “free” than Canadian.

Edwin asked if I had heard about a new universal health plan the doctors and drug makers were working on…

He said it is called “Pill-fer Everything”

Are there any other questions about Canada that I can try to answer for you? Hit the comments and let me know.
Why yes, yes there are! Nothing at all to do with the cost of healthcare, either. So, there are these subtle audible speech cues that tell you that a person just might be a Canadian. Specifically, the way some Canadians pronounce words with "ou" in them, such as "out", "outfit", "house", "about", etc.

(I have no idea if there’s a wide range of accents in Canada, like there is in the US. Is there?)

So my question is, putting aside such brazen giveaways such as an obviously Southern accent, or a Boston or New York accent (think: people who live in the Pacific Northwest, where there’s hardly any accent), is there a similar subtle audible clue that Canadians hear and say, “H’mm, I bet this person’s from the US”?



But you’re hobbits, so your overhead is about half as much.


Healthcare has a cost so obviously has to be paid for in some way whether it’s via taxes or premiums. In the UK it’s taxes and insurance, the differences is, although the system is not perfect a lot more people get a lot more for less money compared to the US. Even so there are people advocating for US style system because of course, there is a lot of money in it for the rich (and corporations who the rich invest in). We have to resist that model.


Americans also pay for our healthcare with taxes! Medicare and Medicaid and an unknown amount of other taxes that ultimately benefit pharma and medical corporations (part of why they have massive lobbyist power). In addition, we also have to pay massive insurance premiums, deductibles, and copays (if we’re lucky enough to get insurance), and of course those out of pocket expenses.

And when you do need to use the healthcare that you’ve paid taxes for, it’s common for it to take 6 months to 3 years (or longer) to get approved to see a doctor, only to be told “Well you were approved for Part X, but not Part Y, so you can see the doctor, but you can’t have the treatment that they prescribed.”

I’d guess you probably got more than 2 tylenol and a bandaid or “come back again next month if it gets worse and you’re not dead” for it. Whatever you got was probably a bargain in U.S. terms.

Here things like that also only happen on a pay-per-use basis, or if you’re lucky enough to know someone shady who doesn’t mind doing them to help you feel better, and you don’t mind whatever their motivations are for doing that.


Ever et raw moose?


In Ontario at least, drugs are free until you are 25. After that, there’s the Ontario Trillium Drug Benefit, that basically works so that if your out-of-pocket expenses for drugs exceed 3-4% of your after-tax income. That’s a very small number to reach.

Hospital stays are also covered by our health plan, which frankly is the most important benefit - if I’m in Ontario and I need to go to a hospital, there’s no concern whatsoever that my treatment won’t be covered. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be concerned that your urgent care might cost you, and it’s the one thing that most concerns me about the US system.


Did you eventually get reimbursed? As a Canadian, I would expect to be able to claim that expense against one province or another, even if it meant some hassle over the lost paperwork.

I do agree on the dentistry thing, and I find it ridiculous that it’s not covered (it is at least for kids in Quebec, iirc).

ETA: I also find it weird and inefficient to have all these different provincial systems, rather than just one common one, but that’s not about to change


Yes! The way you pronounce words with “ou” in them, such as “out”, “outfit”, “house”, “about”, etc.

I once had a girlfriend from the supposedly accent-free PNW. She had a sweet but energetic and occasionally disobedient dog. If she (the dog) harassed you while you were trying to eat, the command to get her to scram was “out”.

I would bellow “Out! Out!” at the dog, pronouncing it as a normal person would, to no avail. She’d stop what she was doing but not leave. She’d just stand there with this adorable “WTF?” look on her face. You know, big eyes, head slightly cocked, mouth closed, obviously saying “Huh?”

I had to learn to say “Owwwt, Owwwt!” to get her to obey me.

Most Americans also say “howse”, “abowt” etc. It’s quite obvious and a dead giveaway. Not very quaint though. It’s sort of grating, honestly. But we still love you.

(Obviously I have just owted myself to said ex if she happens to be here. Hi.)


I’ve met progressive, pro-universal-healthcare Americans who, while they weren’t naive or dishonest enough to think Canadian healthcare is “free”, were still puzzled to hear that group health insurance for employees exists here. “Why do you need that? Don’t you have universal healthcare?”

I’m not the author but I was the one who mentioned US Senators so maybe you were calling me out there. I guess this is an example of the shoe being on the other foot. As someone who follows US politics but not in the kind of detail I would if I lived there, one meme that I’ve noticed goes something like “congresspeople should be forced to have the same healthcare as the rest of us, then they’d fix the system.” So I had come to assume that congresspeople do get access to a plan that ordinary people don’t.


Enough has been said about how this is a terribly patronising take on Canadian healthcare. I just wanted to add that while (of course) it’s true that it’s paid for by taxes (what, do you think people believed that doctor’s salaries and healthcare supplies were magically without cost in Canada?), there are two important points: first, since it is a “single payer” system, there are massive efficiencies and bargaining power in pricing. Second, since taxation is progressive, the cost of the system (via taxes) to people outside of the top whatever-few-percent–hence the majority of people–is considerably lower than if you just took the average contribution via taxes (which is already lower than it would be in the US, see point (1) above).

The poster reminds me of Donald Trump who, when he learns something the rest of us have known since childhood, gives it away by saying “not a lot of people know this…”


No biggie here. That’s what taxes are for. The counterpart is that poor people not only don’t pay such taxes, they also get wellfare checks to help.

The biggest advantage is: I am not afraid I could get into an accident or get a complicated disease and find out my plan doesn’t cover it. You get sick, you get treatment. Undersranding health plans in the US requires a law degree.


Article author moves to a different province without filling out proper paperwork for healthcare coverage then writes a article complaining about how they were billed for service. You have only yourself to blame. Having lived for extended periods in both Canada and the US and having done the proper work before moving back to Ontario I can say the Canadian system is much better to deal with than US healthcare. Its not even close and misleading articles like this one are a big part of the problem in the way of getting a better healthcare system in the USA. Come on Boing Boing you can do better than this fear mongering bullshit.