Humankind special: Public Option

As the health care debate continues, we take a provocative look at the Canadian system, which covers all citizens for a fraction of what Americans spend -- and patients never see a bill for doctor and hospital visits. The model in Canada is enormously popular, but we also learn the problems there: wait times for treatment and the cost of prescription drugs, which in Canada are second highest in the world. Also, we consider the "public option" for the U.S., in which citizens of any age could opt-in to Medicare, but if insured by their employer could keep that coverage

Most nations with advanced economies provide health care for all citizens through a government-financed system. Even the United States offers a basic single-payer plan for seniors: Medicare. But for the rest of the population, health care can be a mind-numbingly complex patchwork quilt – as well as a giant profit center for the medical industry. Hence the continuing, high-stakes battles over how to care for people’s health needs. In this program we hear from two very knowledgeable experts:

Danielle Martin, a family physician in Toronto and author of Better Now, and describes the single-payer system in Canada . "It’s bad enough to be sick," says Dr. Martin, "without having to worry about how you’re going to pay for your care." And we listen to a short history of the early battles in Canada to launch this system – including a doctors’ strike – fascinating for Americans to hear.

Jacob Hacker, author of American Amnesia and Yale professor of political science who devised the Public Option, by which people with employer-provided insurance can keep their coverage, but others may opt-in to a new system that would be based on Medicare, which remains highly popular, yet has managed to restrain the medical costs.

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