NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Trump Wants Canadian Style Health Care

November 4, 1999

Donald Trump, running for the Reform Party's presidential nomination, is proposing a Canadian-style national health insurance program. Liberals think national health insurance can be financed with administrative savings that would offset the costs of additional coverage. A widely criticized 1991 U.S. General Accounting Office report found net savings of $3 billion per year if a Canadian-style system were implemented here.

The problem is, when you give people something for nothing, they invariably demand more of it. Consequently, costs are always far higher than anticipated, and states must continually search for ways to cut them. These may involve longer waiting times for doctors and surgery, lack of access to the latest medical equipment and procedures and emigration of a nation's best medical personnel.

Canada's health system suffers from all of these problems. Rising costs for health care are a key reason why total government spending is 42 percent of the gross domestic product in Canada, versus 33 percent in the U.S. Although Canadians pay less for health care than Americans, they pay significantly higher taxes instead.

And the quality of medical care in Canada is falling. A recent study by Vancouver's Fraser Institute found that the time Canadians must wait for surgical procedures has steadily grown from 9.3 weeks in 1993 to 11.9 weeks in 1998. For some procedures the wait can be almost half a year. This is simply a form of rationing.

As a result, many Canadians cross the border so they can receive immediate treatment for a fee. In American hospitals, Canadian patients are often treated by Canadian doctors who have fled the high taxes, low wages and out of date equipment in Canadian hospitals. Even the New York Times says that the Canadian health system is no model for the U.S. to follow.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, November 24, 1999.


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