May 1, 1990: Health care in the US vs. health care in Canada

Medical editor Tim Johnson visits and compares two families dealing with their country's health care on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.
4:42 | 11/21/17

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Transcript for May 1, 1990: Health care in the US vs. health care in Canada
On the American agenda tonight we continue our look at money and medicine how to deal with the rising cost of health care. Last week the American College of Physicians became the first major. Medical organization in the country to call for national health insurance basic care at no direct cost for every one. Quite a departure for American doctors but others have been saying for quite some time that what the US needs is what already exists in Canada. Tonight our medical editor Tim Johnson makes house calls on two families one on either side of the US Canadian border. This abandoned grocery store is now the home of a family medical practice serving the town of spring bill New York. Just south of the Canadian border. Doctor Timothy steeple has cared for spring bill citizens for the past eighteen years. He sees about a 150 patients a week. And for each of them the first stop is the front desk and a large sign that brings the matter of money right up front. Most important thing you ask efficient nowadays is now what's wrong with you that's what her insurance here have cores the need to talk Monday deeply troubles doctors people. What bothers me a lot I mean it's here is totally skewed. The whole relationship between directors and impatient sleep that emphasis on cost. In fact American health care is basically rationed according to insurance coverage that he is whether your particular policy will pay for what you need or even worse. Whether you have any health insurance at all. Mike Baker one of doctors people's patience is a self employed walk. Who can not afford 200 dollars a month for medical insurance for his family. Seoul when the children get sick they go to the doctor and paid cash when they have some. And pay on time when funds are short. But when might get sick he just waits it out I have render an actor and price ten years why is that. Well I guess it's easier not ago you know like a good actors. Well I don't like this from the morning ago. But when it came time for Denise to deliver her baby the bakers couldn't wait. The local hospital struggling to stay in business wanted a 500 dollar deposit. We did have 500 dollars to give per deposit rate care today you walked in did they hassle you. All they wanted me Hess lot of questions and has thought lot of paperwork and find does it. Oh yeah whoa baby. The maternity bill was over 2000 dollars and Mike hated off over the next sixteen months the family was struggling and might try to get some help. They tell us give your welfare and Medicaid in our Bernard so we took our. It ourselves and. Just over the border in Canada families never have to struggle to pay for medical care. The Armstrong's of saint Catherine's Ontario remember what it was like when their children were born we walked into the hospital walked up to the receptionist. Took her name and address them with growth upstairs. In fact there is no mention of a -- when it comes to any medical care in Canada. I don't think anybody thinks when he when it comes doctors. That's because in Canada general tax dollars pay the medical bills. Doctors and hospitals bill would government directly for patient care and are paid according to fees set by the government. Contains nothing. Doctor Valerie Bailey the Armstrong's family doctor appreciates not having to think about money when it comes to caring for her patient. It's patient comes in the complaining of something and I'm directing my attention. On their symptoms. Rather than you know whether and it paid for the servicemen who. Doctor Bailey worries that if Canadian patients had to pay their own medical bills. The health of poorer patients would be sacrificed. I would find it very stressful to have to start thinking about what the patient can forage. You know what tests I can order what the cost is. The truth is that neither of the United States nor Canada can afford unlimited health care for every soul choices have to be made. In the US the most sophisticated care is readily available for the wealthy and the ensure. While for millions even basic care is out of reach. In Canada expensive technology and treatment are scarce for every one. But that means that no one who needs reasonable care is left out in the cold. Doctor Timothy Johnson ABC news.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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