Canada was my home way back in the “olden days”. I could see no real differences between my country and the United States. I lived along the border and routinely crossed the international bridge. My young friends and I checked in at Customs. We were all of nine or 10 years old.
In those days, all we needed was 10¢ for the bridge toll each way. Going to the neighbor across the border was exciting because although the towns were largely identical, they had a bakery to die for and a Ben Franklin’s store. The bakery was always our last stop before beginning the mile-long trek back over the border and home.
We didn’t think a thing of it.
These days, crossing over for a carton of milk or tank of gas requires a passport for everybody in the car including newborn babies.
So, so much has changed.
Why I Came to the US From Canada
Back in the mid 1980s, when I moved to the States, I was more excited about seeing real cactus in the desert than about what kind of living conditions I would find. Surely it was the land of opportunity for all. If you worked hard and did so steadily, over time you would be rewarded.
Sadly, that was my introduction into poverty.
For those of us aspiring to live a great life in a small town away from the hustle of the cities, there are very few opportunities to succeed beyond a basic survival. Even sticking with the best employer in town is no guarantee of upward mobility or benefits.
It Is Better in Canada
Being poor in the U.S. isn’t the worst.
Being poor in the U.S. without health care is.
This doesn’t really hit home until you start racking up the medical bills for things beyond your control. My husband recently had a heart attack. The life flight cost $48,000. Fortunately, we have insurance which covered that. I have friends who don’t have insurance, and their flights weren’t covered. Most of them don’t even earn $48,000 per year.
The politicians in Washington who are fighting so hard to take away medical insurance from American citizens will never know the fear and uncertainly when a loved one is seriously ill. They all have lifetime health insurance paid for by us, the people who often have very little or no coverage. They have pension plans paid for by us, the taxpayers, but one of their goals is to end Social Security. They say we should worry about our own retirement plans without relying on the government.
If the citizens pay into Social Security, why is it considered government money?
If employers aren’t paying living wages to employees, how can they save for retirement?
If health insurance costs more than half your income, how then can you save for retirement?
None of this matters to the powers that be as long as they remain in power and prevent US from leaning toward single-payer health insurance. The big “boogie man” here is the fear of socialism. But what is the difference between car insurance and health insurance? Car or home insurance is no more socialist then single payer health care would be. I should know – I grew up in a country that was substantially the same as the U.S., except of course for health care. Everybody pays in – everybody benefits.
The Canadian System
In Canada, if you don’t want to work hard, you’ll be poor. The government is not responsible for your job or your life choices. Even with a system of socialized health care everybody is still responsible for their own standard of living. The only difference being that poor people still get to see a doctor. If you suffer a catastrophic illness or accident you might have to pinch pennies because you missed a lot of work, but you won’t be losing your house because of medical bills.
When my mother was dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), the doctor called our family together so he could visit everybody at home at the same time and guide us through what the coming days would hold. The family was given options so my mother could decide her own fate in her own time and she would know what was coming. This was not a death panel. It was a compassionate doctor doing what was best for my mother and her family. We’ll be forever grateful for their concern and attention to her needs.
Don’t be fooled by what the politicians will tell you about their new plans for health care for the country. Any system which favors the corporate world over human needs will never work for human needs!
Corporations by design are geared to make a profit. Profit has no place in the medical world.
Helen Hamilton is a Guest Columnist who has worked in American journalism her entire life. Due to healthcare challenges, she finds staying in the States to be an untenable situation.