Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » September 2005 » Eyewitness reports: Socialized Medicine--it ain't bad in Canada at all

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09/18/2005: Eyewitness reports: Socialized Medicine--it ain't bad in Canada at all

Over at The Leiter Reports, a couple of guest bloggers have been filling in for Brian Leiter. Both are U.S. academics who have taken positions in Canada. Friday one of them, Jessica Wilson, shared her experience with their first encounter with socialized medicine, Canadian style:

Our prescriptions were running out, so it was time to see a doctor. Would we have to wait for weeks, spend hours in the waiting room, be officiously treated by a harassed doctor with her hands full from treating the hypochondriac hordes clamouring for freely dispensed health care?

Uh, no. We called a couple of days ago and got new patient appointments right away at a walk-in clinic in our neighborhood. We walked in to a nice building right on Danforth...


Up the stairs to check in, where there was a pharmacy and a dentist's office, among other services. No waiting. A nice person and 5 minutes later, we were upstairs in the doctor's waiting area. Approximately 1 minute later, our pleasant, calm doctor (a young man recently moved here from Montreal) invited us to come, separately or together, into the office. We went in together, and each conversed at length with the doctor about our respective maladies (what fun!) and the alternatives for treating them, made a decision on these scores, and got an initial check-up. The doctor was thoughtful, informed, and in no hurry whatsoever to get rid of us. We then took our prescriptions to the pharmacy downstairs, waited about 10 minutes, paid a reasonable amount (we'll get reimbursed when our official insurance comes through... though it's worth noting that the standard base-line insurance doesn't automatically come with prescription coverage. No doubt prescriptions are covered for those below a certain income threshold), and were on our merry way.

By way of comparison with health care in the States, Benj waited a month to get a new patient's appointment after moving to Ithaca, and to get my first prescription in Ann Arbor I had to sit in the waiting room at the University of Michigan clinic for almost an hour. In fact, I can't remember ever not having to wait for some extended period of time to see a doctor in the states. And once in the exam room, the person I had most contact with wasn't the doctor, but rather a nurse or nurse practitioner, who asked most of the questions and performed the general check-up, with the doctor showing up for a 5 or 10 minute diagnostic denouement. And our health insurance was supposed to be elite! Free market health insurance -- don't believe the hype.

UPDATE: Reader RA sends along the following story:
A friend of mine [in Santa Monica] sought a medical appointment for some unusual skin growths on her face and back through Kaiser Permamente. She was told it would take four months to get an appointment. She didn't want to wait so she saw a dermatologist outside her HMO and discovered she had skin cancer. $5,000 (out-of-her-pocket) later, she's fine, but obviously not happy with her medical coverage.
I can see that in a few years, I'll be wishing I was a Canadian (actually, I'm already there), because my health care there would be much better than what I'll be able to afford here.

UPDATE: Over at the River City Mud Bugle, autoegocrat shows us why it looks like even the Iraqis will have better health care than we do.

Len on 09.18.05 @ 12:39 PM CST

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