This morning, I read this little piece and then I read another post by someone who was unabashedly against universal healthcare. I’m not going to link to that post or mention who wrote it because I’m not writing this to oppose them personally or specifically. I just feel the need to voice my opinion. I’m Canadian and as such have lived with universal healthcare for as long as I’ve been alive. While I have no experience with privatized healthcare, I feel I’m pretty qualified in saying that universal healthcare works. And I’m being very careful in saying “universal healthcare” as opposed to “free healthcare”, because it isn’t free. We pay our income taxes, a portion of which goes towards this system. If we get sick, we’re insured and are provided the necessary medical attention. No invoices or bills cross hands after a visit to a doctor or to the emergency room. Sure, certain non-essentials are exempt from coverage, but if we’re in need of a doctor, we don’t have to worry about whether or not we can afford one.
‘But Jen O.,’ you say. ‘I have a good job. I don’t have to worry about that, either. Why should I pay for someone else’s doctor visit?’
To this, I say – because you can. Because you can and they can’t and we’re all in this together, aren’t we? If you answered no, you need to reexamine your priorities. I don’t miss the money I never had. The few dollars of my hard-earned money that go towards healthcare, whether I use it or not, is not missed. Sure, I’d love to see more of my paycheck, but I don’t. Between income tax and property tax and harmonized sales, a portion of my money goes to the education of my children, the maintenance of my local infrastructure, basic services like garbage collection, just like everyone else who works and owns property and buys things. Taxes aren’t going away and lowering taxes means a reduction in services. Basic math – spend less, get less. I wish this weren’t true, that we lived in a world that didn’t charge us for things we don’t use or that we don’t value, but we don’t.
However, I live in a country that takes care of its own. Like it or not, we all pay what the government determines to be our fair share and then the services are divided out evenly. Even if you don’t have children, your taxes go toward the school board. You can pick public, Catholic, or other, but it’s going to one of them whether you’ll ever benefit directly or not. The same goes for healthcare. All our change goes into the pot and we take from it when we need. If we don’t ever need to see a doctor or visit an ER or have a baby or require surgery or treatment or break a bone, well, bully for you. You’re the luckiest person on the planet. But if you do ever need medical attention, it’s there for you, no question of affordability. You need it, you got it. Our doctors are just as capable as the doctors in other countries. Our hospitals just as well equipped. Sure, the wait time may be longer for a number of reasons, but it’s a minor sacrifice, I think.
If suddenly the government decided to do away with this system, decided ‘you know what? you’re on your own’, I am in a fortunate enough situation that it would probably not devastate me. We’re a two income family, with no major health issues. Some basic prescriptions, but all very manageable. Knock on wood, fingers crossed, thank my lucky stars. But then what? We can take care of ourselves, but what about those who can’t? Am I supposed to just say ‘sucks to be you’ and turn a blind eye? Am I supposed to pretend that the money that is now in my savings account could have saved someone’s life? Because that’s not a stretch. That’s not a best/worst case scenerio meant to scare us into submission. We are, as tax-payers, helping those who don’t pay taxes receive basic medical care. Care that they can not, otherwise, afford. Could I live with myself knowing I had the means to help but chose not to because those couple extra bucks could pay for something else I don’t actually need? Absolutely not.
I really don’t know enough about this to keep going. The deep finances of it confuse me with all the numbers and percentages and scales. I’m not an accountant or political aficionado or medical professional. I don’t know precisely where each and every penny comes from and where it goes. What I do know is that if we weren’t taxed for our “free” healthcare, there are literally thousands of families who would be left to decide between food and treating an infected tooth.
Let me just reiterate this, to be clear – I do not miss the small percentage of my taxed dollars that goes toward healthcare. If the government took that service away, they’d find something else for which to use that money. I, we, will never see that money again, whether it’s going to healthcare or not. We plan our personal budgets around this fact. This is money well spent. This is money that saves lives. Valuable lives. And I sure as hell don’t need to know the people whose lives have been saved by my tax dollars.
Now…I just don’t understand why this isn’t an opinion shared globally.