Our health care hassle

Published 11:13 am Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Recently, my mother became seriously ill and I took a trip to Canada. These two events focused my thoughts on the issue of health care. In addition, I’ve paid close attention to our ongoing heated national debate on how to best provide health care and insurance to all Americans.

Although my mother received excellent care here in the United States after undergoing surgery and being diagnosed with cancer, many times when talking about options for her care, health professionals’ statements were punctuated by, “It depends on her insurance.”

Now it seems a bit bizarre to me that we have a health care system in which treatment options for anyone, particularly the critically ill, is determined by insurance coverage.

Worse yet, we end up paying a very high price emotionally and financially when we make care hard to access for those with limited incomes.

A few days after my mother’s hospitalization I made a trip to Ontario, Canada. The trip reminded me of the years I spent living there, participating in a very different health care system.

Although no system is perfect, my experience in Canada involved much greater access to health care with less hassle. In Ontario when I needed to see my family physician I called, made an appointment and was seen in a reasonably quick time frame, the same if not quicker than I have been able to see general practitioners in the States.

My finances didn’t determine whether I should go to the doctor — my health did. In contrast, although the quality of service is comparable, the first questions I’m asked in the doctor’s office in Alabama are not about the nature of my illness but whether I have my co-pay.

I can’t imagine the difficulty and humiliation the 22,000 uninsured individuals in Shelby County encounter when they need to see a doctor. We can do better.