Monday, August 10, 2009

Canadian health care myths

For all that is said about the health care system in Canada, such criticisms are really unwarranted, especially when compared to the American system of health care coverage. In terms of both cost and effectiveness, our neighbors to the north have us beat on both.

Such a realization has only come to me in recent months, earlier this year. Like many Americans, I heard the criticism of the Canadian system and thought, “That sounds awful.” Hearing of long lines and unavailable doctors, in addition to the skyrocketing costs that were supposedly bankrupting the country, the Canadian health care system sounded like a well-intentioned but failed exercise in government spending. Being a proponent of universal care, I resolved myself to look elsewhere for a model of government-run health care to tout, and disregarded Canada as an anomaly, a concession I made several times to conservatives I engaged in debate with.

That was long before the current debate on health care. When that debate began in earnest this year, I began to think to myself, “Wait a second: if the Canadians hate their health care so much, why don’t they change it?” Even the conservative party in Canada supported a universal form of health care. So why did the Canadians support something they supposedly abhorred?

I got to researching, and discovered the awful truth: Canadians don’t actually hate their health care. For the most part, most of them LIKE it. In fact, proportionally speaking, fewer Canadians reported unmet health care needs than Americans did (11.3 percent in Canada vs. 14.4 percent in the United States).

What else did I discover? Canadian health care cost their government much less than American health care did, even though American health care is supposedly a private system. The Canadians spend just ten percent of their GDP on health care coverage that covers 100 percent of the people; in America, we spend 17 percent of our GDP and still have nearly 50 million Americans left uninsured.

What about those long lines we keep hearing about? Complete phooey, for the most part. If you need emergency care in Canada, you get it, on the spot when you show up. For specialists’ care, there are reasonable waiting lists, comparable to the American system, and with elective surgery, you have to wait a bit longer. However, that wait is worth it to many Canadians when you compare what you get out of it -- free medical surgery. It might be worth waiting 14 months for replacement knee surgery if you don’t have to pay $35,000 to receive it.

There are many more Canadian health care myths worth looking into, including the myth that doctors work for the government, that bureaucracy runs the system, and that the government decides who gets health care coverage and when. Such myths and more can be refuted in an online article from the Denver Post by Rhonda Hackett.

Is their system perfect? Of course not. But it sure beats what we’re living with down here in the States. So I have this advice for conservative readers: Before you tout the line of how much universal care has hurt Canada, do some research, and ask a Canadian yourself.

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