The Truth About Canadian Health Care
Each night on radio I get calls from Canadians telling me how happy they are with their system. And I get the occasional call from a naysayer saying Canadians rush to the US for care because they don’t have enough MRI machines. Of course, we forget that whatever Canada’s shortcomings, we have enough of our own. The Seattle Times examines some of the truths and myths here.
Canadian Emily Whitehead and an American friend had babies years ago, then compared notes.
The friend, who lives in Michigan, was in the hospital two or three days. Her bill: more than $3,000.
Whitehead, a diabetic, and her premature infant were hospitalized two months. The bill: $16.95, for TV and a long-distance call.
Today, Whitehead is battling cancer, but the Ontario government is paying for all her hospital stays and doctor visits.
“When you consider the cost between the U.S. and Canada, there is no comparison,” said her husband, Dennis. “People who go to the hospital here don’t face financial ruin.”
Health care costs account for, in part at least, 62% of US personal bankruptcy filings. And Canadians and residents of 28 other countries live longer than those in the US. And here’s where Canada has us beat:
…every Canadian who needs care gets it, and the single-payer-system doctors bill one payer. The government also is inherently more efficient than the U.S. system, in which payment might come from Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance plans, none of which covers exactly the same services or pays exactly the same amounts.
Here’s how payment works:
Hospitals are nonprofits that are funded mostly by the government but must raise the rest themselves. Windsor’s two hospitals have spruced up rooms by charging businesses $50,000 for naming rights. Patients might be in a room with “Devonshire Mall” or “CKLW Radio” over the door.
Here’s why it’s not socialism:
In a true socialized system such as Britain’s, doctors work for the government. Most Canadian doctors work for themselves or in groups.
Nor has universal coverage driven private insurers out of business. Two-thirds of Canadians have supplemental insurance for dental work, eye care, prescription drugs and private hospital rooms.
Speed of care is faster in America for some services. That is, unless you lost your job and have no insurance. And, just like Canada, it takes longer to get to see the most popular doctors.
And here’s the bottom line:
“What’s right about our system is that we have a single-payer system that’s dramatically reduced costs and provided universal coverage,” said Dr. Michael Rachlis, one of Canada’s top health-care experts. “Americans have ideological blinders about 4,000 miles tall and cannot see that something with the word ‘government’ in it could be more efficient than something without government in it.”