TEXT OF COMMENTARY
TESS VIGELAND: Not everybody’s a fan of the new health care reform. Conservatives have decried it as too much government involvement for too big an expense. Commentator David Sax isn’t a fan either. Nice try, he says, but I’ll keep my socialism.
David Sax: Hey there America. Many of you are slapping yourselves on the back right now, given that health care reform is law. Way to go. Now, let me tell you why I’m still going back to Canada for my own health care.
Until I moved to the U.S. a year-and-a-half ago from Toronto, health care coverage was a problem I’d never had to deal with. Because every resident of Canada gets universal, publicly funded health care, we’re pretty much covered for everything, no questions asked. Before moving to the U.S., I’d never seen a doctor’s bill in my life, had never had to receive permission for a procedure, and the only times I’ve taken out my wallet out in a hospital were to buy flowers.
Because I work as a freelance journalist, the cheapest health care plan I was able to find in New York cost around $200 a month. But that coverage would only kick in after I racked up some $10,000 in expenses, which I had to pay out of pocket.
“Let me get this straight,” I thought. “I’m going to pay for more than $2,000 a year for insurance that will cover me only after I’ve racked up 10 grand in medical bills?”
It seemed like a pretty poor bargain.
Instead, I’ve done what many Canadians, Europeans and foreigners living in the United States do: Bought catastrophic coverage for emergency care and continue to use the system in Canada. I book check-ups with my doctor when I visit home, and if I have any tests or things I need checked out by a specialist, I make sure to fly back to Toronto.
Pretty much all of my Canadian friends who live in the U.S. keep one foot in the Canadian health care system. Even friends of mine with fancy Cadillac health plans from their employers keep their Canadian health insurance active, just in case they lose their job, or are denied coverage for some unforeseen reason.
Despite President Obama’s ambitious reform, the American health care system remains an expensive, confusing and often terrifying place for anyone who came from a country with universal public health care.
Our systems aren’t perfect. There are often lines, waiting lists and moments of frustration. But we know that no matter how sick we get or what job we have, Canada, Europe or Japan will take care of us. Having that life raft accessible, even if we never use it, is a reassurance that’s pretty tough to give up.
Vigeland: David Sax is a New York-based writer.
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