DURHAM — Husband and wife physicians Ron Olson and Holly Muir left their native Canada 11 years ago frustrated with the limited resources of universal health care.
Since then, though, the couple has been just as frustrated with the U.S. system, though for different reasons.
"Some of our specialists are overbooked, so the wait is often more than several months," said Olson, a family doctor with the Duke Student Health Center. "The systems aren't as different as some people might think."
In this couple's view, both systems need reform to become hybrids, each learning from the other. Canada needs a private-insurance option for services currently covered only by the government so that wealthier citizens don't have to endure the same long lines as everybody else.
"In Canada, if everybody can't have it, then nobody can have it," said Muir, chief of women's anesthesiology at Duke University Medical Center.
Conversely, the United States needs a broader tax-funded safety net for those who can't afford private insurance but don't qualify for assistance programs such as Medicaid.
"Our whole society would be much better off," Olson said.
That's because the poor can't pay for preventive care and thus rely on emergency rooms, which have to treat them at a greater expense that is passed along to patients who can afford to pay.
"When you get real sick [in the United States], the care you can get is extraordinary," Muir said.
But keeping everyone healthier to begin with would save money for the rest of us, Olson said.
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