There is a tremendous amount of misinformation being communicated in the USA media about the Canadian health care system. So for American readers of my blog, here is some information that you might find useful.
Canadians think their American neighbours would be wise to look north as they grapple with a massive health-care overhaul. That’s the conclusion drawn from a poll published as Capitol Hill legislators debate a plan to cover nearly all Americans with government-run health insurance. The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests 82 per cent of Canadians believe our system is better than U.S. health care. The Canadian health-care system has been in the spotlight for weeks at congressional hearings, where it has alternately been characterized as the gold standard and a rusty system plagued with problems and delays.
“Currently, 47 million U.S. citizens – mostly the poor – have none. The U.S. also has the highest health-care costs of any country in the industrialized world. Those figures might explain Canadians’ preference for their own health-care system, said Harris-Decima vice-president Jeff Walker. I think what’s happened over the last year or two is that even more problems associated with the U.S. health-care system have come to light,” he said. President Obama has certainly put them at the centre of his agenda to deal with problems in that system. “ “I think there’s a growing sense that going fully private, or having some version of an almost fully private model like the American one, doesn’t necessarily serve the broader interest the way Canadians would want it to be served.” The poll also suggests 70 per cent of Canadians think their health-care system is working well or very well, while the remainder feels the system is either not working well or not working well at all.
Comparison of the 2 systems :
• 47 million Americans have no medical coverage. Canada covers every Canadian citizen.
• Canadians live three years longer than Americans, and our infant mortality rate is 20% lower.
• Canada spends 10% of its GDP on health care, compared to 15.3% in the United States, yet we generally get more services.
• Economically, Canada’s public health system dramatically reduces costs for business, particularly the hard-hit manufacturing sectors, because of higher prices and administrative costs in the primarily private U.S. system.
• Also close to 50% of personal bankruptcies in the USA result from health care costs. In Canada bankruptcy resulting from health care is almost unheard of.
During congressional hearings in June, Dr. David Gratzer, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute who grew up in Manitoba, focused his entire testimony on the shortcomings of Canada’s Medicare. Gratzer said he could “understand the temptation” to go with a single-payer system but warned against it.
Representative Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, took Gratzer to task. Do you know what Statistics Canada, the analogue to the U.S. Census, says the median wait time is across Canada for elective surgery?” he asked Gratzer. “Why don’t you inform us, sir,” answered Gratzer. “It’s four weeks. And what does Statistics Canada say the median wait time for diagnostic imaging like MRI s is? It’s three weeks,” said Kucinich. Kucinich went on to point out that one in every four Americans goes without needed care due to the high cost of health insurance, while “none or very few” Canadians find themselves in that predicament.
Steven Lewis, a health policy analyst and adjunct professor of Health Policy at the University of Calgary and Simon Fraser University, says that despite its problems, “Canadians are very devoted to the principles of Medicare.” “When we wait longer than we think we should, people are a bit unhappy, but overall, people who use the system have a very positive response—typically 80 to 90 percent approval ratings for the system for people who’ve used a lot of health care in the previous years. So I think it’s patently untrue to say that we’re unhappy with our system.”
Lewis says some of the more pressing issues, such as a shortage of doctors, are being addressed, with medical school enrollment currently about 68 percent higher than a decade ago. “In the next few years we’re going to see many more doctors graduating and starting to practice.” The “real hot button area,” says Lewis, continues to be hip and knee replacements, for which patients have to wait six months or more. It can also take a long time to see a specialist. While wait times need to be improved, critics of Medicare “need to get real.” “There isn’t a health care system in the world that doesn’t have stories of people suffering; there isn’t a country in the world that doesn’t have waiting lists. In the United States the waiting list is pretty long—if you don’t have the money, you wait forever.”
Lewis says that while he doesn’t care what Americans think of Canada’s health care system, he hopes Obama’s attempt at reform in the United States is successful. “There are these enormously powerful interests in the way that make it very difficult to get any kind of coherent plan through congress. … For the sake of the American people I hope they get it right, because I think a whole lot of Americans really suffer because their health system is so unfair.”
Finally, not long ago, the CBC our national broadcaster asked Canadians to nominate and then vote for The Greatest Canadian in history. Thousands responded. The winner? Not Wayne Gretzky, (although the hockey great did make the Top 10). Not even Alexander Graham Bell, another finalist. The greatest Canadian ever? Tommy Douglas. Who ???? Tommy Douglas was a Canadian politician – and the father of Canadian Universal health care.
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