I am often confused by the negative reaction toward single-payer healthcare that seems to be prevalent in the United States. With the current race to choose candidates for November’s election, the topic keeps coming up. It seems to me odd that single-payer healthcare is usually referred to as something to be avoided, along the lines of gun control. I had some time to consider this last Friday while waiting at the hospital emergency room for my fiancee to be treated for what turned out to be a fractured arm.
Upon arrival at the Montreal General Hospital we were seen immediately by a triage nurse who assessed the situation as worthy of emergency care – but not a life and death case – and entered basic information into an electronic file. This included presentation of her Quebec Medicare card.
The next step was to register; addresses, phone numbers and details of the injury, This took about five minutes, after which we sat and waited to be called for attention.
Her initial examination was conducted by a woman resident who ordered x-rays and painkillers for her. Within several minutes she was given Tylenol and morphine and off to the x-ray room we went. No waiting, in and out in about ten minutes.
Back to the waiting room to be called again once the x-rays had been studied. This took about an hour or so. But at least she had been given something for the pain. An orthopedic doctor saw her and explained that the arm was fractured but that he believed a cast would do the trick and that surgery was not required.
The cast application was a painful ordeal that was alleviated somewhat by an injection of more morphine. Once the cast was applied a new set of x-rays were taken and the doctor was able to ascertain that the cast was supporting the broken bone as it should. A prescription was provided for painkillers as well as a supply for see her through the night.
The whole procedure took about five hours but the real shock was when the bill arrived! Consultations with two doctors, application of a cast, two sets of x-rays and miscellaneous administrative charges brought our invoice up to a grand total of …. wait a minute … there was no invoice.
The service was of course covered by our single payer healthcare system: the Government. Tax dollars. It is not ‘free’. But there are no worries about expenses at a time when medical attention is of paramount importance. I can only imagine what it would be like to be tallying up the cost of things while sitting in the waiting room.
Call it single-payer, call it socialized medicine, it seems to me it is the only way to go.