How I Lost My Fear of Universal Health Care

By Melissa for Permission to Live

When I moved to Canada in 2008, I was a die-hard conservative Republican. So when I found out that we were going to be covered by Canada’s Universal Health Care, I was somewhat disgusted. This meant we couldn’t choose our own health coverage, or even opt out if we wanted too. It also meant that abortion was covered by our taxes, something I had always believed was horrible. I believed based on my politics that government mandated health care was a violation of my freedom.

When I got pregnant shortly after moving, I was apprehensive. Would I even be able to have a home birth like I had experienced with my first 2 babies? Universal Health Care meant less choice right? So I would be forced to do whatever the medical system dictated regardless of my feelings, because of the government mandate. I even talked some of having my baby across the border in the US, where I could pay out of pocket for whatever birth I wanted. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that midwives were not only covered by the Universal health care, they were encouraged! Even for hospital births. In Canada, midwives and doctors were both respected, and often worked together.

I went to my first midwife appointment and sat in the waiting room looking at the wall of informational pamphlets. I never went to the doctor growing up, we didn’t have health insurance, and my parents preferred a conservative naturopathic doctor anyways. And the doctor I had used for my first 2 births was also a conservative Christian. So I had never seen information on birth control and STDs. One of the pamphlets read “Pregnant Unexpectedly?” so I picked it up, wondering what it would say. The pamphlet talked about adoption, parenthood, or abortion. It went through the basics of what each option would entail and ended by saying that these choices were up to you. I was horrified that they included abortion on the list of options, and the fact that the pamphlet was so balanced instead of “pro-life.”

During my appointment that day, the midwife asked her initial round of questions including whether or not I had desired to become pregnant in the first place. Looking back I am not surprised she asked that, I was depressed at the time, (even though I did not list that on my medical chart) and very vocal about my views on birth control (it wasn’t OK, ever.) No wonder she felt like she should ask if I was happy to be having this baby. But I was angry about the whole thing. In my mind, freedom was being violated, my rights were being decided for me by the evils of Universal Health Care.

Fast forward a little past the Canadian births of my third and fourth babies. I had better prenatal care than I had ever had in the States. I came in regularly for appointments to check on my health and my babies’ health throughout my pregnancy, and I never had to worry about how much a test cost or how much the blood draw fee was. With my pregnancies in the States, I had limited my checkups to only a handful to keep costs down. When I went in to get the shot I needed because of my negative blood type, it was covered. In fact I got the recommended 2 doses instead of the more risky 1 dose because I didn’t have to worry about the expense. I had a wide array of options and flexibility when it came to my birth, and care providers that were more concerned with my health and the health of my baby than how much money they might make based on my birth, or what might impact their reputation best. When health care is universal, Drs are free to recommend and provide the best care for every patient instead of basing their care on what each patient can afford.

I found out that religious rights were still respected. The Catholic hospital in the area did not provide abortions, and they were not required too. I had an amazing medically safe birth, and excellent post-natal care with midwives who had to be trained, certified and approved by the medical system.

I started to feel differently about Universal government mandated and regulated Health care. I realized how many times my family had avoided hospital care because of our lack of coverage. When I mentioned to Canadians that I had been in a car accident as a teen and hadn’t gone into the hospital, they were shocked! Here, you always went to the hospital, just in case. And the back issue I had since the accident would have been helped by prescribed chiropractic care which would have been at no cost to me. When I asked for prayers for my little brother who had been burned in a camping accident, they were all puzzled why the story did not include immediately rushing him to the hospital. When they asked me to clarify and I explained that many people in the States are not insured and they try to put off medical care unless absolutely needed, they literally could not comprehend such a thing.

I started to wonder why I had been so opposed to government mandated Universal Health care. Here in Canada, everyone was covered. If they worked full-time, if they worked part-time, or if they were homeless and lived on the street, they were all entitled to the same level of care if they had a medical need. People actually went in for routine check-ups and caught many of their illnesses early, before they were too advanced to treat. People were free to quit a job they hated, or even start their own business without fear of losing their medical coverage. In fact, the only real complaint I heard about the universal health care from the Canadians themselves, was that sometimes there could be a wait time before a particular medical service could be provided. But even that didn’t seem to be that bad to me, in the States most people had to wait for medical care, or even be denied based on their coverage. The only people guaranteed immediate and full service in the USA, were those with the best (and most expensive) health coverage or wads of cash they could blow. In Canada, the wait times were usually short, and applied to everyone regardless of wealth. If you were discontent with the wait time (and had the money to cover it) you could always travel out of the country to someplace where you could demand a particular service for a price. Personally, I never experienced excessive wait times, I was accepted for maternity care within a few days or weeks, I was able to find a family care provider nearby easily and quickly, and when a child needed to be brought in for a health concern I was always able to get an appointment within that week.

The only concern I was left with was the fact that abortion was covered by the universal health care, and I still believed that was wrong. But as I lived there, I began to discover I had been misled in that understanding as well. Abortion wasn’t pushed as the only option by virtue of it being covered. It was just one of the options, same as it was in the USA. In fact, the percentage rates of abortion are far lower in Canada than they are in the USA, where abortion is not covered by insurance and is often much harder to get. In 2008 Canada had an abortion rate of 15.2 per 1000 women (In other countries with government health care that number is even lower), and the USA had an abortion rate of 20.8 abortions per 1000 women. And suddenly I could see why that was the case. With Universal coverage, a mother pregnant unexpectedly would still have health care for her pregnancy and birth even if she was unemployed, had to quit her job, or lost her job.

If she was informed that she had a special needs baby on the way, she could rest assured knowing in Canada her child’s health care needs would be covered. Whether your child needs therapy, medicines, a caregiver, a wheelchair, or repeated surgeries, it would be covered by the health care system. Here, you never heard of parents joining the army just so their child’s “pre-existing” health care needs would be covered. In fact, when a special needs person becomes an adult in Canada, they are eligible for a personal care assistant covered by the government. We saw far more developmentally or physically disabled persons out and about in Canada, than I ever see here in the USA. They would be getting their groceries at the store, doing their business at the bank, and even working job, all with their personal care assistant alongside them, encouraging them and helping them when they needed it. When my sister came up to visit, she even commented on how visible special needs people were when the lady smiling and waving while clearing tables at the Taco Bell with her caregiver clearly had Downs Syndrome.

I also discovered that the Canadian government looked out for it’s families in other ways. The country mandates one year of paid maternity leave, meaning a woman having a baby gets an entire year after the birth of her baby to recover and parent her new baby full-time, while still receiving 55% of her salary and their job back at the end of that year. Either parent can use the leave, so some split it, with one parent staying at home for 6 months and the other staying at home for 6 months. I could hardly believe my ears when I first heard it. In America, women routinely had to return to work after 6 weeks leave, many times unpaid. Many American women lost their jobs when becoming pregnant or having a baby. I knew people who had to go back to work 2 weeks after giving birth just to hang onto their job and continue making enough money to pay the bills. Also every child in Canada gets a monthly cash tax benefit. The wealthier families can put theirs into a savings account to pay for college someday (which also costs far less money in Canada by the way), the not so wealthy can use theirs to buy that car seat or even groceries. In the province we lived in, we also received a monthly day care supplement check for every child under school age. I made more money being a stay at home mom in Canada than I do in the States working a close to a minimum wage job. And none of the things I listed here are considered “welfare” they are available to every Canadian regardless of income. For those with lower incomes than we had there are other supports in place as well.

If a woman gets pregnant unexpectedly in America, she has to worry about how she will get her own prenatal care, medical care for her child, whether or not she will be able to keep her job and how she will pay for daycare for her child so she can continue to support her family. In Canada those problems are eliminated or at least reduced. Where do you think a woman is more likely to feel supported in her decision to keep her baby, and therefore reduce abortions?

Since all of these benefits are available to everyone, I never heard Canadians talking about capping their incomes to remain lower income and not lose their government provided health coverage. Older people in Canada don’t have to clean out their assets to qualify for some Medicare or Social Security programs, I heard of inheritances being left even amongst the middle classes. Something I had only heard about in wealthy families in the USA.

And lest you think that the Canada system is draining the government resources, their budget is very close to balanced every year. They’ve had these programs for decades. Last year Canada’s national debt was 586 billion dollars, the USA has 15.5 trillion dollars in national debt. Canada has about one 10th the population of the US, so even accounting for size, the USA is almost 3 times more indebted. And lest you think that taxes are astronomical, our median income taxes each year were only slightly higher than they had been in the States, and we still got a large chunk of it back each year at tax time.

In the end, I don’t see Universal health care as an evil thing anymore. Comparing the two systems, which one better values the life of each person? Which system is truly more family friendly?

Former Quiverfull believer, Melissa is a member of the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network at No Longer Quivering – she blogs at Permission to Live.


  1. Stacey on July 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Excellent, thank you for sharing! As a Canadian living in the US with my American husband, I’ve experienced both systems too. Although the US system has many wonderful doctors, nurses, hospitals, technology, etc. the insurance-controlled system itself is HORRIBLE – oturageously expensive, insanely complicated, downright inhumane. Although the Canadian system is far from perfect and faces its own challenges (wait times are an issue for several non-emergency procedures in different regions), it is still a MUCH better system overall. It’s a MUCH more humane, and MUCH more Christian system. There’s a reason that polls show the vast majority of Canadians, even most conservative ones, are very proud of the public system and they’d NEVER dismantle it or trade it for the current US system. It drives me nuts how the American (mostly right-wing) media and politicians spread lies or exaggerated stories about it. Canadian comedian Martin Short said it best, “we’ve had ‘socialized medicine’ in Canada since I was 12 years old, and I didn’t know it was a bad thing until Glenn Beck told me so”. Americans look/sound silly when they justify the absurdity of their own system by pointing out flaws in another system. Americans also look/sound silly when they talk about “wait times” in Canada b/c 10s of millions of Americans wait INDEFINITELY for care they may never afford. Canadians still believe in Caitalism, and know that most good and services are best in the hands of the free-market, but some things (education, security, and HEALTH CARE) are far too important to be left in the hands of unchecked private interests. A for-profit health care system controlled by insurance companies (with CEOs who “earn” hundreds of millions a year) in an unregulated free-market means profit comes from DENYING care. When will Americans understand that?????

    • Kathy on November 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      Thank you!!!!! I emailed this to everyone on my contact list! now that Obama’s been re-elected, maybe we actually have a chance to right this incredible and greedy WRONG!!!
      My ex-husband and I had a baby in Montreal in 1978. He was a student, so we did have a family student policy that cost less than $300 a year. There was no maternity rider, or any riders of any sort. it covered you as any Canadian. I fell in love with the system then and have been preaching it ever since! Thank you for being sooo detailed and open minded! it means even more that you were formerly mislead and saw and are now sharing the LIGHT!!!!
      AGAIN, THANK YOU!!!!

  2. Lee Ann on July 23, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    In a lot of the socialized medicine countries, such as Norway and Finland. Their socialized medicine also covered free contraception for anyone who asks for it. Their % of abortion dropped to almost zero. If you can prevent a pregnancy, there is no problem with choice or prolife. I know this writer is not a fan of birth control, however, its a fact of life for most people. I had hoped the US would have gone to single payer or a public option, but there is still time to tweak it and make it better and better.

    • Bill on July 24, 2012 at 11:08 pm

      Lee Ann, do you even know what the term “Socialized Medicine” means? Look it up some time and see if you find a definition. I cannot find one, other than a “phrase” that was made up by a Lobbyist for American Health Insurance companies. It is a fake term. The word “social” is used to incite fear in people so they think of goverment control and even communnists. The control of your health care in the USA is controled by profit making insurance companies.

  3. Liz on July 24, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Thank you so much for your post. As a Canadian living in the US, I never realized how good we had it until I got sick here. Not even very sick – just sick enough for it to cost me more than I had. I wish more Americans could see the benefits of sharing. Most of us will never be amongst the very rich – nor should we need to be to live with dignity and in comfort.

  4. Deb on July 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    If National Health Insurance is not implemented in the next two years in this country, I’m going to move to Canada like so many other Americans who are fed up with this disgusting, immoral system. In fact, I may not wait even that long!

  5. Ian Taylor on August 8, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    As a Brit married to an American, I can only endorse the comments made about the inhuman and money-grubbing aspects of the US so-called health care “system”. The administrative costs alone are quite ridiculous and the duplication of information on interminable pieces of paper quite shameful for the home of modern information technology. The National Health Service in UK has its shortcomings and critics of course, but our expectations of it are high and mostly met in full measure,especially when help is most needed. US medical research and skill deserve to be set free of purely financial interests. Sucking blood should be left to medics.

    • Kathy on November 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      FABULOUS!!!! As I said above, I have been preaching for 34 years since the birth of my daughter in Canada. As you said, it may not be ‘perfect’, but it is surely NOT PERFECT in the U.S.!!!!!!
      I sooo appreciate the comments of those of you who have experienced BOTH systems and can give us an objective, first hand opinion!!!!
      Again, thank YOU!!!

  6. Clara on August 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    This is one of the best things I’ve read on this topic, ever. It needs to go viral. Thanks so much for writing it.

    I’m also a pro-life Christian and strongly wish we’d adopt a Canadian-style health care system in the U.S. It makes perfect sense. I imagine that some day in the future, we’ll have it, and we’ll all be shaking our heads in woeful disbelief that we put up with our current brutal system for so long.

    • Kathy on November 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      It makes my ’34’ years of preaching worth every minute of it to hear someone of your mindset to see the beauty in this system. Thank YOU for speaking up!!!

  7. Margie Rece on August 9, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Medicare only is what I have been on since the late 1990’s. And I love it. I can afford the co-pays. What I cannot afford and have not had to, are the inflated costs. AND that is not enough for me. I want it for everyone. And that is what I am working on.

    • Kathy on November 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      You are the BEST!!! Caring for others even when it does not affect you! Too many people want their medicare, but don’t care about others who are not ‘in the loop”!!!
      Keep up the good work, pushing for the equality and health for all as it pertains to health and security, Social Security. The powers that were, want to ruin that, too!! Obviously, the right wing! Thankfully, we have 1 more term in Obama to turn this country around and bring the country back to the people!

  8. Allan of Charleston on August 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    As a Canadian born who was transferred to California by my employer, a US/Canadian company in 1967, I have experienced the many colours of greed in the American Health “Care” system, and the insurance and financial controls of it are really destroying the economics of the USA.

    I am now an entrepreneur, and have started, with dedicated colleagues, a manufacturing firm. We are seriously considering locating in Ontario because of, among other advantages, (like quality of education being ranked 5th in the world), the cost advantages of health care to a manufacturer. It’s a significant 15% salary advantage.

    And on the personal side, I have family in Canada and was involved with my parent’s care in their final years, and OHIP in Ontario, while not perfect, as this article illustrates is light years ahead of what we are forced to tolerate in America.

    But we are being lied to constantly by Republican Ideologues who are bought and paid for by the greedy Insurance Health Care Deniers. I too am looking forward to being back in Ontario…where Progressive Conservative ideas are embraced by Liberals and PC’s alike.

    A Recovering Republican

    • No Difference on August 12, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      It’s not just Republicans who kow-tow to the health insurance industry, but many Democrats as well, like Obama and his cabinet and most of the Congressional Democrats. PPACA (“Obamacare”) is a nationwide implementation of the Massachusetts health insurance disaster (“Romneycare”), supposedly a reform that has proven to be anything but. And most Democrats voted for PPACA when push came to shove; that’s politics.

      Please don’t make the mistake of believing there is anything more humane about one party over the other. They are the two halves of the duopoly that rules the US. It is unfortunate that we never grew an NDP that, while not perfect either, at least challenged the two main political parties in Canada. If we had, the US would be a very different place today. Probably more like Canada I think.

      • Cheryl Liniman on August 13, 2012 at 9:21 am

        At least one party is TRYING. The other is OBSTRUCTING. And if you’ve never enjoyed the benefits of Universal Care, then you don’t have the knowledge to make any comparisons. I personally know people from Canada and Norway that LOVE their health care system. A friend from Norway had the MISFORTUNE of getting sick while visiting here and paid through the nose for a visit to an urgent care center plus medication, just to make the flights back home. He spent over $200 for the visit and a packet of antibiotics. He was still very sick once he got back to Norway and went to his own doctor, got a SHOT AND the proper medication … all for a cost of about $15.00 in American $$$. I hate when people repeat like a parrot and advocate the status quo. We have one of the worst systems in the world, especially when you consider outcomes and costs.

        • Kathy on November 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

          Hey, Cheryl, I agree! My daughter and her family live in Massachusetts and it’s a start. There is ONLY one party who has tried, and I dare say that Massachusetts has been in the forefront since Bobby Kennedy. I’ll give “No Difference” credit in that there is way too much lobbyist activity bought by both parties to divert too much attention and action away from the masses.
          All I have to say is, let’s get to it!!! Time to call ALL CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS to step up and get doing the right things to serve the MAJORITY!!!! HELLO DEMOCRACY!!!!

  9. D Hickey on August 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Need to get this out to the public somw way to counter all the terrible radio shows with Boortz, Hannity, Rush who have attacked Obama care from day one? Scare tactics have been lies? Doctors will leave, premiums go up which have anyway? I am a retired RN and I saw for years the greed in medicine get worse? Been a license to steal and charge whatever the system can get away with? I have used system in Canada and Ireland and been great? The 8 years I have been here in Ga and go to my medical clinic I have yet to see a doctor I always see the PA and she has been good? So much for doctors? I voted for Republicans for years and after I heard all the lies coming on Obama care I now am an Independent and will not be voting for Romney or any of my Georgia Republicans? Do not care for the middle class anymore? For 8 years we had immigration and jobs taken away from citizens? Had NAFTA get worse and now very few mfg jobs are left here ? WHY? These jobs paid the bills, you cannot pay the bills with Walmart salary? Sub Prime that alot occurred on Bush watch and now we the tax payer and Europe are paying for this greed too? We need full page newspaper ads and programs on TV to show what the real story is on health care and if Obama care moves forward?

  10. Grover Syck on August 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    I have not personally used the Canadian system, but have many acquaintances in the internet in Canada any have used both the Canadian and US system of health care. Every one of them says they would not of their own initiate go with the US system. They all say the Canadian system is not perfect, but it is far superior to the system we have forced up on us here in America.

    Hopefully, by children will live to see a single payer national health care system in the US.

  11. Gloria on August 10, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Although the US Affordable Healthcare Act is not the answer, it is a start to a corrupt issue. I continue to research the many healthcare porgrams in other countries while searching for an equitable answer in the US. Canadian healthcare is often quoted as being the “best one payer” healthcare system. In all the posts above, each state “although it is not the best”, “it is not perfect”, etc. I have yet to read, in this article, the taxes paid for UK/netherland healthcare. How do they afford the high taxes and live well too? I have interviewed several Canadians from all provinces, all socio econimic levels and ages, asking their opinion of their healthcare system and cost. The majority state they often come to the US to seek healthcare for major issues. I have worked in Canada, the UK, and US as a healthcare provider in all three systems. We have yet to find the best system. I for one do not relish the idea of paying for some one’s healthcare who abuse the system and will not work to pay into the system they abuse.

    • No Difference on August 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      PPACA is not a “start” to anything. PPACA is the enlargement and empowering of the already too-powerful health insurance industry. After Jan 1, 2014, health insurers won’t have to look for customers; everyone will be forced to buy a policy and pay a for-profit, private corporation for the right to fight for a sliver of that money back in the form of payments for necessary health treatments.

      PPACA MIGHT be the end of any hope for a single payer system, though. Unless, it forces the privatized health insurance industry to collapse on itself. If it does collapse, we will then have to worry about bailing them out since the system will be too big to fail with too many people depending on it for what little care they might get from it.

      Don’t be fooled, in other words.

    • Cheryl Liniman on August 13, 2012 at 9:31 am

      Gloria …. what is perfection? Yes, taxes are higher in the Netherlands …. our friend from Norway said his salary is about 3 times higher than what it would be if he were doing the same job here. He told us everyone is taken care of … single Moms receive child support and govt. support. They don’t have the sick and the homeless laying in the streets like we do here. There is more dignity in the treatment of people, and health care is something they need not worry about, or losing their homes, etc. because of illness. You can stick with your narrow-minded selfish mindset of thinking you’re the only one on earth that deserves to live. We all die eventually, and guess what? You can’t take it with you. Imagine if you fell and seriously injured yourself or had a heart attack and were alone … and your neighbor just stepped right over you and walked away to let you die without help. That’s exactly what you and the Republicans are saying. In America, we USED to look after each other … now it seems like some of you are the hunters and we are the prey.

      • Kathy on November 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm

        The Affordable Care Act did not go nearly far enough for me! I agree it still plays into the hands of insurance companies, but JUST TRY TO GET PAST THEM in this country! Again, lobbyists are in the way of progress for the masses. We do not need to be equal in all ways!! no one has asked for that! Rich people, make as much $ as you want and can!!!! Pay your fair share and be quiet! That’s all that asked.
        My plan: Phase out insurance companies in 5 years with controls on their activities in the meantime!!
        Feds, mandate minimum coverages in each Co-op, State “named”, non-profit, credit union-like, audited annually office in the country. Instead of premiums, a flat “x” percent of personal income would go into your state named agency. Eliminate the middle man, insurance companies, who care more about their profits and bonuses than coverage of patients!! We MUST MOVE in another direction! It factually works in other nations and people ARE HAPPY!!!
        It’s a start! Let’s run with the ball!!

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