Free health care isn’t free, so how will we pay for it?

As Canadians, we take great pride in our health care system. If you asked people to describe it in simple terms, most would say we get everything for free. But that’s not true, on many levels.

First, even if we don’t take out our chequebooks at the doctor’s office, we still pay for our care through our taxes. And more importantly, there are lots of things that aren’t covered for many of us, including dental care and prescription drugs. The lines between what the public system covers and doesn’t cover often make very little sense. Why is a doctor treating your ear paid for by the system, but not a dentist treating your mouth? Why is a hospital visit covered but not the drugs that will treat your illness?

If we truly believe in universal health care, we should embrace the idea of dental and prescription drug coverage. But since even free health care costs us billions of dollars, the proposal brings up a critical question. If we’re going to have more coverage, what will we cut, or how will we raise the money to pay for it?

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