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Operation HealthCare: Global Health

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Some Tulsa Oilers say there's one card they don't leave home without: their Canadian health care card. Some Tulsa Oilers say there's one card they don't leave home without: their Canadian health care card.
Dr. Elizabeth Macedo, a radiologist who practiced in Canada for years, said that country's health care system is slower and not as well equipped as the U.S. Dr. Elizabeth Macedo, a radiologist who practiced in Canada for years, said that country's health care system is slower and not as well equipped as the U.S.
Reggie Cervantes says she was there for her country during 9/11, but the U.S. health care system has not been there for her. Reggie Cervantes says she was there for her country during 9/11, but the U.S. health care system has not been there for her.

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Are Oklahomans really getting world class health care? Some Oklahomans from abroad would say no.

The Tulsa Oilers may be hometown hockey stars, but they aren't exactly homegrown. And while they may have traded the maple leaf for the stars and stripes, there's a card one hockey player says he wouldn't leave home without: the Canadian health card.

"It's a blessing for sure to be Canadian and have that," said Rob Hisey of the Tulsa Oilers. Hisey is from Oakfield, Ontario. Teammate T.J. Craig is from just outside Vancouver in a town called Colona.

Canada's health system is similar to Medicare. Everyone pays into the system through taxes, and everyone gets healthcare from private providers - for free.

"If you get sick here, you get a big bill in the mail, right? So, we always get the extra insurance when we're traveling in the states or anything like that," Hisey said.

But some Canadians say the system is no healthcare utopia.

"I was very exasperated with the system because we just could not get equipment," said Dr. Elizabeth Macedo, a radiologist who practiced in Canada for years.

"My ex-husband who lives in Calgary had bleeding from his bowel. He had to wait a whole year for a colonoscopy," she said.

Dr. Macedo says that's why some Canadians head south to the U.S. for care, although these Tulsa transplants say that's not that common.

"Yeah, I've never heard of that," said Tulsa Oiler T.J. Craig.

Both Craig and Macedo admit Canadians trade doctor bills for a bigger tax bill.

"If everybody willing to pay high taxes to cover that if it's the government that's providing universal health care. Your taxes are going to be very high. Just like in England and in Canada. And the government can only do so much," said Dr. Elizabeth Macedo.

Macedo says Canadian healthcare has gotten better since she worked there, but it's done so by getting closer to the American way of doing things.

"I left Canada in '92. It is becoming more and more private now, because patients are just fed up," said Dr. Elizabeth Macedo, a radiologist who used to practice in Canada.

Reggie Cervantes is also fed up, but she lives in Oklahoma, not Canada.

"And when I needed help, the for-profit system here in the U.S. did not have room for me," Cervantes said.

That's hard for Cervantes to accept, because she was there when the nation needed her.

She spent 33 hours in the rubble at Ground Zero. And with every breath she took, she says she singed her airways and shortened her life.

Cervantes now suffers from chronic health problems. She can't work and can't get her insurance to cover all of her medical bills.

Filmmaker Michael Moore heard her story. In his documentary, "Sicko," he takes Cervantes and others to get treatment in an unlikely place - Cuba.

"If you are a foreigner and you go to Cuba - and many Americans go - you can get treated. And there is no bill," Cervantes said.

She found out the same drugs that cost her hundreds cost Cubans pennies.

"I wanna go back. If I go back and get treated, I won't walk around with an ear infection," she said.

She's never met some of her "Sicko" co-stars, but their healthcare struggles - so much like her own - have made them her family. And she says her story - their stories - is why her country needs to do better by all of its citizens.

Radiologist Doctor Elizabeth Macedo says the patients themselves are the biggest difference between the U.S. and Canada. She says there's too much testing here, partly because doctors are afraid of lawsuits, but also because patients demand it.

11/19/2009  Related Story: Operation Healthcare: Two Faces Of Medical Tort Reform

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