Some Canadian natives now living in Wisconsin say their family members and friends still living in Canada are being well-served by the universal health care system there.
“My dad went in for prostate cancer, serious stuff, and he immediately got moved to the top of the list,” said Gary Billington, vice president of client relations with Milwaukee-based Plunkett Raysich Architects LLP. “And my brother had a heart attack when he was in his 40s. It was pretty severe, and he had his cardiologist and his procedures done. My dad says if it’s not life threatening, you have to wait. As soon as it’s serious, your status becomes higher.”
Billington’s son, who lives in the Milwaukee area with him, is 23 years old, isn’t in school and doesn’t have a job right now. He tried to purchase health insurance, but wasn’t able to, because of a pre-existing medical condition.
“That’s worrisome, because of what if something happens,” Billington said. “That would never happen in Canada. When you’re born, you get a card. That’s your ticket. It doesn’t matter if you move to another province.”
Jeff Hiltz, one of the owners of Corporate Design Interiors, a Waukesha-based office furniture supplier, has lived in Milwaukee for decades, but still has family and friends in Canada. Although the Canadian system results in high tax bills, it offers people protection, especially in the event of major illnesses.
“As people retire and they get ill in retirement, they can lose it all (in America),” he said. “They’re looking at it as if they don’t have to spend all their golden year retirement (dollars) on their health if they take a turn for the worse.”
People such as Rich Schmidt also have unique perspectives from both sides of the border.
Schmidt and his wife lived in Colorado for five years, and their two children were born there. Today, Schmidt is branch manager for WESA, an environmental science, health, safety and engineering consulting group that has an office in Sudbury, Ontario.
The family’s experiences with the American health care system were largely positive, Schmidt said. However, there were some aspects of the American system that the family didn’t care for, he said.
“The biggest shock was when we went to visit a doctor,” Schmidt said. “We went to walk out, and they said, ‘You’ve got to pay.’ That was a culture shock, because all of your doctor visits here (in Canada) are covered. You’ve got a health card, and you just show that.”
While living in Colorado, Schmidt met several people who didn’t have health coverage. One of those people was in a recreational sports league with Schmidt and was hurt on the field.
“He was really fighting that he had to go to the hospital because he’d have to pay for it out of his own pocket,” Schmidt said.