Monday, February 17, 2003

A letter writer to the Times defies the supposed conventional wisdom that Canada's health care system is too flawed to be instructive to the U.S.

Re "Long Lines Mar Canada's Low-Cost Health Care" (news article, Feb. 13):

It's time to distinguish between an imperfect health care system and no health care at all. I am an American living in Montreal, where last year my husband and I needed two surgeries, four emergency room visits, radiation and chemotherapy, nuclear medicine cardiology and assorted tests. Our care was timely, compassionate, comparable to care in the United States — and free.

Back home, we paid outrageous insurance rates for uncertain coverage that excluded any care we were actually likely to need. Our Quebec friends cannot comprehend the notion of "pre-existing conditions" or "denial of payment," and we've come to view the American health care system as backward and discriminatory.

The philosophical choices are telling: the United States provides optimal care for a few, no care at all for many; Canada provides good care for all its people.

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