Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thank your lucky stars

I would like to preface by saying that I am not naive enough to think that our health care system in Canada is pristine, but I will say that we seem a lot better off than the US at this point in time.

Last night I attended a public hearing with my new friend Bob (fiery, wheelchair bound and the "best liberal you will ever meet"). The hearing was before the insurance board ombudswoman of sorts. In short, without getting into any specific detail or complicated pie charts, the largest insurance provider in Maine is called Anthem(Blue Cross Blue Shield). Anthem is required by the state of Maine to provide a certain amount of residents with he lowest rung of health insurance. This, I assume, is to ensure that most people can afford at least some kind of health care, even if it is only catastrophic. However, in recent years Anthem has been losing money by providing this mandatory coverage to a little under 12,000 Maine residents. So, in an attempt to boost profit, they asked the State of Maine to allow them to raise rates by 18%. Maine, short and skinny, told them plainly that they are not in the business of ensuring that businesses make a profit and therefore settled to only allow an increase of 10.9% in order for Anthem to break even. Anthem, in return is suing the state or the ability to raise rates by 22.9%. So the insurance superintendent Mila Kofman is holding public comment sessions around the state in order to take into account the testimonials of "Maineahs".

So... that is what gets me here, blogging about the testimonials. To say that it wasn't affecting would be an understatement. The bravery people exuded by getting up and telling their often very difficult stories about not being able to afford the care they need to get by was mind boggling. I can not say for sure that I understand the whole issue, or that I side with a specific argument, but I can say for certain I felt real lucky that I come from a place where I don't have to sit at home suffering from a painful and feverish allergic reaction because I know that I cannot afford to go to the emergency room... again. Or lucky that at the age of 77 I don't have to support two disabled adult children, of which I have to choose which one I can afford to buy insurance for and which one goes without. Real world Sophie's Choice.

I can only say that after listening to almost 3 hours of personal testimonial I feel absolutely spoiled that I have never had to worry about any of these things. One woman, very humorously and very succinctly phrased her comparison of Canada and America, she said she saw a parallel between the health care and the Olympics. In America the coverage of the Olympics is dismal, you can watch a hour or two a night and all you get is a 20 minute recap in the morning. Not only, she said, would you get 24 hour coverage of the Olympics in Canada, but you would also have health care coverage. I didn't word that quite as humourously as she did... but you get the point.

Tie Olympics and health care together though, and all I have left to say at the end of the day is, "Oh, Canada!"

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