Bangor Daily News, 6-13-03
Dr. Sandra Hutchison’s op-ed, “Remembering OHIP [Ontario Health Insurance Plan]” (BDN, June 5) reminded me of my own experience with “universal health care extended to all” and with its “reliability and availability.”
After completing my residency in New Haven, Conn., in 1964, I practiced pediatrics for six years in Brussels, Belgium. The government had recently established a single-payer health care system that covered 100 percent of the population and respected principles such as freedom to choose your doctor, direct access to specialists, and no interference by the system in medical decisions.
As a physician, I enjoyed the “simplicity and efficiency” of the system. My patients and I enjoyed the “freedom from pecuniary concerns.” Payments for my services were prompt, never questioned, never lowered and never denied. I never called the insurance system for permission to provide care and they never called me; they never asked for and I never sent them a report of any kind. I never had a secretary or a receptionist. With part-time help from my wife, I managed a busy practice well enough without managed care.
The Belgian health system has been in place, basically unchanged, for 40 years. In 2000, it spent $2,269 per inhabitant and 8.7 percent of the gross national product, compared with $4,631 and 13 percent in the United States. My friends and colleagues in Belgium assure me that health care they receive or provide is excellent and dependable.
Robert M. Gossart, M.D.