COLUMBIA — Lindsey Cathey has been without health insurance since she was 18.
Her mother, Laura Cathey, remembers excellent health care when she was her daughter's age.
Laura is from Canada, while Lindsey was born in the U.S. Their experiences with health care illustrate some fundamental differences between the U.S. and Canadian systems. The Canadian system is publicly funded by taxpayer dollars, is free or requires a small monthly premium and/or co-payment and is operated province by province.
According to an August 2009 study by AngusReid Global Monitor, 65 percent of Canadians report being satisfied with their health care system, as compared with 65 percent of Americans who report being dissatisfied with the U.S. system.
When Lindsey’s parents divorced and she became emancipated at 18, Lindsey was no longer covered by their insurance. At 25, she now works full time as a bartender at a restaurant in south Columbia where she receives no health benefits.
She graduated from MU in 2007 with a degree in psychology but doesn't picture herself working in that field. She only hopes to have a job with benefits and not work as a bartender forever.
Luckily, Lindsey has not had any major illnesses recently. She had a tonsillectomy and minor surgeries some years ago, but her parents agreed to help her with the bills.
Now, Lindsey fears getting sick.
Just a few weeks ago, she spiked a fever and had to miss work for a few days, losing income. She thinks that if she'd been able to see a doctor and get a prescription free of charge, she might have been back at work the next day.
But it's not worth it, she said: "It would cost more to see a doctor and get a prescription than to miss two shifts at work."
Lindsey has been holding out hope that the U.S. will improve its health care system so anybody can have health insurance. But she knows she can't wait forever.
“I haven’t been to the doctor in three years,” Lindsey said. “If I get strep throat, I just have to tough it out. It would cost hundreds of dollars.”
When Laura lived in Canada, she was able to go to her doctor whenever she needed a prescription filled or even a simple check-up. It's hard for Lindsey to understand why the two countries' health insurance systems are so different.
“I really just think that health insurance shouldn’t depend on how much money you make or where you work,” Lindsey said. “We should all be offered the same benefits."
Even some of Lindsey’s friends who have jobs with benefits are not offered health insurance.
“It’s completely terrible,” she said. “And it’s just unfair.”
Now her mother, who is still a Canadian citizen but is living in O'Fallon, is in the same boat as her daughter. As a real estate agent over the age of 50, she has no health insurance.
Laura explains that in Canada she had "excellent, with an exclamation mark" health care.
"Whenever you're ill, you go to a doctor," Laura said. "Whatever you need, you get it. It's such a comfort."
Now that she is in the states, she said she suffers like everyone else.
"I'm scared to death," she said about the fear of getting sick.
Laura was recently in a car accident and is still in pain. She can't afford a doctor right now.
"The U.S. is one of the biggest countries that doesn't get it," Laura said. "It's baloney."
Laura is aware that many conservatives in the U.S. consider the Canadian system to be socialism.
"That's just such a misused word," Laura said. "Everybody has a different opinion of what socialism is."
Laura said she doesn't know much about what defines socialism, but she does know that the Canadian health care system just works.
She said the American population doesn't understand what the true benefit of the Canadian system is. And that benefit is being able to sleep at night.
Here, she said: "We're so afraid we're one illness away from going bankrupt or losing all we've worked for."