What Canada can teach us about health care

Polls have determined that Medicare For All is newly-popular among Americans in the 18 to 36 age range. Those of more youthful years may want to find out that what they wish for in deliverance is what they get.  

What’s interesting about that age range is that those years of life are usually the most healthy. In other words, Americans, typically, do not need the kind of coverage Medicare typically assists to provide to those 65 and older. Nevertheless, younger ages under Medicare For All would likely pay for coverage like anyone now who’s 65 or older.

Facts report that the average monthly premium currently paid by Medicare recipients is $144.60 effective January 1, 2020. However, coverage annually does not kick in until the recipient has generally incurred $198, again, effective January 1, 2020. 

It works like this: recipients pay the federal government an average of $144.60 on January 1 but then must pay-out-of-pocket of about $198 before the Medicare benefit kicks in. Further, federal bureaucrats in D.C. decide what Medicare covers. It’s not uncommon for a beneficiary to be denied coverage.

Also, comprehensive coverage, coverage to address the cost of medical visits, exams and tests, and medical procedures means additional supplementary medical insurance at eye-popping, budget-breaking expense. Also, the typical co-payment at service is an additional cost, not anywhere close to a nickel-dime exchange. All together, the Medicare premium, supplementary medical insurance along with co-payments can lighten one’s wallet by hundreds of dollars every doctor visit. 

Medicare is directly taken out of Social Security before one receives his check and, if there’s a tiny raise or no raise at all, which happens with exasperating regularity, then the amount of the “raise” gets zeroed out. For 2020, the increase in Social Security and simultaneous increase in Medicare premiums will be close to a wash. Meanwhile, the cost of living index proves that everything we need, young to old, just to survive, goes up every year, some items exponentially. 

As an American citizen, I worked for three years as a program administrator at a public community college in British Columbia. Free medical insurance was provided me and my family from day one. A child of ours got so sick we took that child to a Canadian physician. It was determined that a surgical procedure was required to correct the problem. End of that story: All related costs, doctor visits, tests, and a Canadian hospital stay of three days, were paid in full by the government plan. Our out-of-pocket cost literally amounted to one Canadian dollar.

After working for awhile in Canada, all my withholdings were refunded. Canadian medical services for every citizen are mostly government managed while we have government only for Medicare after 65, Medicaid in places and the Affordable Care Act. Canadians pay a higher practical tax rate of 28 percent compared to 18 percent in the U.S. but cost of living in Canada is lower. 

Canada does not tax their middle class so their wealthiest citizens can receive big tax reductions. Medicare For All will not serve as a panacea for those aged 18 to 36 or any other age group. Americans want reforms that other so-called post-industrial nations appreciate: Most of us want medical service availability where profit is not the only determiner and affordability occurs through laws that provide livability through dignity and health for all citizens. Meanwhile, we could do so much better. The U.S. could do so much better at providing medical services to our citizens while Canada serves as a model for what could be here.

Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer. He shares his opinion frequently in the Keizertimes.