Matt: To be accurate her visit was not free. She payed taxes out the wazoo for that "free" coverage. (I am considering not doing projects in Canada anymore b/c the GST and other crossborder taxes absolutely kill any potential profit.)
You're correct that the visit wasn't free, it was paid for by taxes. There's no good way to do an apples to apples comparison between the tax rates in the two countries, it's just too easy to skew the facts in either direction. I'll just say that I wouldn't mind if my taxes were a bit higher if it went towards healthcare.
Note: much as Canadian healthcare isn't "free", US healthcare isn't really "paid for by your employer". The cost of insurance is passed on by the company. I've seen some pretty compelling evidence that the rising cost of health care has been a major driver in the wage stagnation we've seen recently.
It's also worth noting that there's a good case to be made that the current health insurance morass is stifling entrepreneurship.
A doctor's visit for a cold should not be over a hundred bucks out of pocket even if she has only half assed insurance.
As someone who has half-assed insurance and has had to go to the doctor a few times in the past couple of years, I can assure you that if you step foot in the doctor's office and get out of there for less than $200, you're doing very, very very well. I took a header wading a local river last January and screwed up my finger. Due to the fact that my insurance sucks, I taped it up and waited - for a month. It didn't get better, so I went to the doctor - 20 minutes and an x-ray later I was told it was likely a very bad sprain and there was nothing to be done except wait it out - that'll be $210 please, and yes, we do take Visa - when I showed the receptionist my Insurance card she smiled at me pityingly and told me that my insurance provider doesn't cover doctors visits (which I knew, but it was worth a shot). I'm a surfer and a fisherman, so I spend more time in the sun than is generally advisable, and I have already had a few spots removed (back when I had real insurance). After a close friend recently had some pre-cancerous spots removed I decided to head to a doc for a skin checkup - initial appointment is $185, and that's just to look at me, it gets a lot more expensive from there if anything needs to come off.
It's possible that you do have firsthand experience with paying for medical care out of pocket - maybe you just got lucky, or maybe it was a while ago, but by and large when I hear statements like the one above it's a sure sign that the person making the statement has never actually dealt with health care as an un/underinsured person.