Ten Myths About the Canadian Healthcare System

Sara Robinson, who has lived in both the U.S. and Canada, explodes the myths about the Canadian healthcare system. Here’s my favorite (italics mine):

10. This all sounds great — but the taxes to cover it are just unaffordable. And besides, isn’t the system in bad financial shape?
False. On one hand, our annual Canadian tax bite runs about 10% higher than our U.S. taxes did. On the other, we’re not paying out the equivalent of two new car payments every month to keep the family insured here. When you balance out the difference, we’re actually money ahead. When you factor in the greatly increased social stability that follows when everybody’s getting their necessary health care, the impact on our quality of life becomes even more signficant.

And True — but only because this is a universal truth that we need to make our peace with. Yes, the provincial plans are always struggling. So is every single publicly-funded health care system in the world, including the VA and Medicare. There’s always tension between what the users of the system want, and what the taxpayers are willing to pay. The balance of power ebbs and flows between them; but no matter where it lies at any given moment, at least one of the pair is always going to be at least somewhat unhappy.

But, as many of us know all too well, there’s also constant tension between what patients want and what private insurers are willing to pay. At least when it’s in government hands, we can demand some accountability. And my experience in Canada has convinced me that this accountability is what makes all the difference between the two systems.

It is true that Canada’s system is not the same as the U.S. system. It’s designed to deliver a somewhat different product, to a population that has somewhat different expectations. But the end result is that the vast majority of Canadians get the vast majority of what they need the vast majority of the time. It’ll be a good day when when Americans can hold their heads high and proudly make that same declaration.

It’s that italicized bit which is crucial. Despite conservative claims to the contrary, we do ration healthcare: many lower middle-class and unemployed people don’t get to have any. And there’s very little we can do about it–when is the last time a corporate charter has been nullified because of unethical corporate behavior?
Go read the rest of the post.

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8 Responses to Ten Myths About the Canadian Healthcare System

  1. Dave Bridges says:

    I know this is purely anecdotal but my healthcare costs in Alberta was $88 per month (for me and my wife), with no prescription, vision or dental (not counting copays) where my costs (in Michigan) are now $115. If I were single it would be $44 in Canada vs $17 for Michigan. This is all not counting the different income (and sales) tax rates. I know this may not be representative at all, but its not always cheaper. Besides that the quality of care in Calgary vs Michigan isn’t even close

  2. steppen wolf says:

    And may I also remind you that the federal budget in Canada has been enjoying a surplus in the past few years? You heard it – surplus, not debt! Even if the federal government heavily subsidizes provincially-administred healthcare.

  3. paul01 says:

    I raised three kids under this system, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  4. GrayGaffer says:

    Dave, is that $17 not a typo? In WA I was hit for $350 as a 50-50 with my employer for my wife and I. per month. Plus copays, prescriptions, $2K deductible. recently was charged over $3K for a diagnostic MRI for what turned out to be a pinched nerve. Does MI have subsidised health care?

  5. yogi-one says:

    At least when it’s in government hands, we can demand some accountability. And my experience in Canada has convinced me that this accountability is what makes all the difference between the two systems.
    That’s another whole problem in the US. Our government hasn’t been accountable to the people, at least not since the turn of the century. Policies are decided in secret, and constitutional procedures are bypassed or nullified. Official called to account suddenly have huge gaps in their memories, and hearing “I can’t recall during investigations has become the norm, sometimes hundreds of times in one day of testimony.
    Meanwhile the privileged get totally subsidized health care while most of us struggle to pay or simply have given up even trying to have insurance. As has been pointed out, if most Americans had Dick Cheney’s health problems, they’d by either bankrupt or dead due to denied care by insurers.
    And he is against socialized medicine, even though the state pays for all of his.
    I agree having the government be accountable to the citizens is a great idea. America should try it.

  6. Dave Bridges says:

    nope the $17 isnt a typo, at University of Michigan at least:
    http://www.umich.edu/~benefits/plans/medical/monthly.htm
    Go down to the bottom (Premier Care HMO, for you only). Its $17.88 with $381 paid by the employer.
    As for the accountability issue, you may want to look into Canada’s (politically appointed, unelected, permanently appointed) senate

  7. I saw that the other day, and was going to blog about it myself, but you beat me to it. My favorite bit, though, is this one:

    9. People won’t be responsible for their own health if they’re not being forced to pay for the consequences.

    False. The philosophical basis of America’s privatized health care system might best be characterized as medical Calvinism. It’s fascinating to watch well-educated secularists who recoil at the Protestant obsession with personal virtue, prosperity as a cardinal sign of election by God, and total responsibility for one’s own salvation turn into fire-eyed, moralizing True Believers when it comes to the subject of Taking Responsibility For One’s Own Health.

    They’ll insist that health, like salvation, is entirely in our own hands. If you just have the character and self-discipline to stick to an abstemious regime of careful diet, clean living, and frequent sweat offerings to the Great Treadmill God, you’ll never get sick. (Like all good theologies, there’s even an unspoken promise of immortality: f you do it really really right, they imply, you might even live forever.) The virtuous Elect can be discerned by their svelte figures and low cholesterol numbers. From here, it’s a short leap to the conviction that those who suffer from chronic conditions are victims of their own weaknesses, and simply getting what they deserve. Part of their punishment is being forced to pay for the expensive, heavily marketed pharmaceuticals needed to alleviate these avoidable illnesses. They can’t complain. It was their own damned fault; and it’s not our responsibility to pay for their sins. In fact, it’s recently been suggested that they be shunned, lest they lead the virtuous into sin.

    Everyone needs health care at some point in their lives. Everyone dies, and many of us will need quite a bit of medical resources at the end to give us those last months to say goodbye. The whole, “well, hell, it’s your fault if you get sick, why should I have to pay for it?” is so maddening to me it hurts.

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