Big news for our neighbours to the south: Late last night, the U.S. Congress voted to pass the hotly contested healthcare reform bill. The legislation may bring American health care closer in line with what we have in Canada, in terms of providing coverage for more citizens, regardless of their income. The bill, which passed by 219 to 212 votes (with zero support from the Republicans), will extend medical coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Here are some other key things the healthcare reform bill will change:
‘ Most Americans will be required to have medical insurance and those who cannot afford it will receive subsidies
‘ Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions
‘ Young adults will be allowed to remain on their parents’ healthcare plans until age 26
‘ Seniors who require more prescription drugs will receive a larger benefit and a rebate of $250 in 2010
While many Americans are against this bill and what they claim it represents for the American people, there’s no doubt that this is a monumental change for American health care. Many (my cynical self included) doubted President Obama would ever be able to change the American healthcare system to provide more government assistance for people in need. But here we are. Change happened.
In Canada, we tend to sit on our high horses and extoll the virtues of our own universal healthcare system. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Canadians boast that while our health care isn’t perfect, at least we’re not as bad off as the Americans. Well, today I say that sentiment no longer flies. Just as Canadians are reading about monumental political change in the United States today, we’re also seeing news that Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital has cut 12 beds in anticipation of cuts to provincial hospital funding, while the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton has also announced it will be eliminating mental health treatment beds due to a shortage of psychiatrists.
While Canadians can be proud of a healthcare structure that provides treatment for all, regardless of income or medical history, our system still has much room for improvement.
So today I ask my fellow Canadians: What can we change in our own healthcare system? What countries should we be looking to as examples of healthcare systems that work?