About 10 years ago I was doing something stupid and shattered my Metacarpophalangeal joint (I love Google). Anyways that's the joint where the thumb joins the hand.
I finally went to a clinic for x-rays. I was referred to a plastic surgeon who sent me next door to a hospital. At the hospital I had a nice chat with an anesthesiologist until I fell asleep. I woke up and everything was put back together the right way with the help of some some hardware, a cast was on my wrist and they told to get lost. All in all I think it took the system 3 days to take me in and spit me back out. I spent about 8 hours in the hospital for the actual surgery. I was treated very well, have never had a problem with that thumb since and never paid a cent for any of those services (except through taxes).
I think the Canadian system works fine. People who need emergency treatment usually get it. There's just too many other people up here with sniffles and aches and pains that think they are entitled to immediate relief that are clogging up and complaining about a system that's geared around triage.
Obviously, someone in cardiac arrest is going to be treated immediately while the guy who spends half his life in emergency rooms looking for relief from his arthritis is going to wait.
This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are.
I've been lucky enough not to personally need our system a whole lot, but I think it works pretty well. Not really a true single payer system mind you. As a paramedic I have an appreciation for not having to consider whether or not someone is insured when they call 911. You have a problem? You get a ride to the hospital and the help you need. Period.
The system doesn't cover everything: you still pay for your own prescriptions, dental, some eyecare, work physicals, etc. But if you feel sick you can just stop by any local walk in clinic, free of charge and no question asked. The doctor just bills the government for your visit.
If you have a problem that isn't considered critical, it is true you can often pay your way to treatment more quickly in the US, but by and large there are ways expedite treatment in Canada as well.
Mostly, I think the difference really boils down to this: if you can afford insurance (and happen to not get screwed by your insurance company), the single payer system isn't necessarily a huge improvement.
On the other hand, if you can't afford insurance or have recently lost your job, you still get whatever healthcare you need. To me, that outweighs any negatives of slightly higher taxes.
The biggest irony: Canada pays less per capita into the healthcare than the US, and yet every single Canadian citizen is garunteed healthcare. Not to mention a slighter longer average lifespan. Whatever you might want to say about a little socialist healthcare, something is working.
If you have any specific questions about the Canadian healthcare system, feel free to ask here/PM me.
I never have, although I know of a few that have. Most cases I've heard of were for elective surgeries where the wait was extremely long in Canada and money was not an issue. And you'll find a few people heading out of country to certain institutions worldwide (Mayo Clinic, Hopkins, etc) simply because they want one of the leading experts in the field to treat their specific problem.
Pretty much in the way that you would expect. There is a thriving private sector for care not covered by the government, but virtually none for that that is covered. Why? Because a physician either gets to bill the government (and is then bound by government set rates and restrictions) or opts out of the program entirely and is then is cutoff from all government reimbursement (ie: the patient has to foot the entire bill).
Search around a little; there are plenty of essays floating around the 'net that can explain how the public and private sector mixes better than I can.