This is what bothers me. Friends of mine who are FOR this type of system to be rolled out into America... it's what both Democratic candidates talk about, and it's the talk among healthcare professionals. I will admit that most of the time I sit there and say nothing. The reason is that I've done no research besides hearing the media (a.k.a. "America's Brain") describe that we need this... Here's is my attempt to find some truth in what is REALLY going on in countries that have this sort of healthcare system.
One of the biggest complaints about Universal Healthcare is the wait times. Whether for a specialist, major elective surgery, or specialized treatments, studies by the Commonwealth Fund found that 57% of Canadians reported waiting 4 weeks or more to see a specialist; 24% of Canadians waited 4 hours or more in the emergency room. (Commonwealth Fund, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: An International update on the comparative performance of American health care, Karen Davis et al., May 15, 2007.)
OK, given there are wait times. The last trip to the ER I had personally, I waited 2 hours. There was no one else there waiting, so I assume with a busy ER after hours, I would have had to wait more than 4 hours. This seems comparable. As far as waiting to see a specialist... 4 weeks seems plausible unless it's a life or death situation as cancer treatment, etc...
It seems plausible also that part of conversion to this sort of system would have to include dealing with wait times and ways to overcome this scrutiny. No one wants to wait.
Another criticism is the lower number of physicians practicing in these countries. Because their pay is lower, many come to America where salaries skyrocket. Would this affect pharmacists as well? Would our six figure salaries go away? What is the incentive to stay in a system as this when pay is equal, say to a teacher? Is this because of what we perceive as worth in the job market and education or should we be making less?
Would I still be allowed to purchase my own privately held healthcare insurance? In Canada - No... it is illegal. The New York Times stated, "Accepting money from patients for operations they would otherwise receive free of charge in a public hospital is technically prohibited in this country, even in cases where patients would wait months or even years before receiving treatment...Canada remains the only industrialized country that outlaws privately financed purchases of core medical services."
Interestingly enough, Canada has a higher life expectancy than the US.
The debate continues.