NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 30, 2008

If socialized medicine is so great, asks economist Walter Williams,  why do Canadian and British physicians send patients to the United States, and why does the Canadian government spend over $1 billion each year on health in our country?

According to the Cato Institute, U.S. hospitals and clinics treat thousands of foreign patients.  The Mayo Clinic treats more than 7,000 foreigners a year, the Cleveland Clinic 5,000; Johns Hopkins Hospital 6,000, and 1 out of 3 Canadian physicians send a patient to the U.S. for treatment each year.  Why? Because the delay in health care services is not only inconvenient, it's deadly:

  • The Fraser Institute found that Canada's median waiting times from a patient's referral by a general practitioner to treatment by a specialist, depending on the procedure, averages from 5 to 40 weeks; the wait for diagnostics, such as MRI or CT, ranges between 4 and 28 weeks.
  • In England, 750,000 are awaiting hospital admission, and the National Health Services hopes to achieve an 18-week maximum wait from general practitioner to treatment, including all diagnostic tests, by the end of 2008.
  • In both countries, many patients with diseases that are curable at the time of diagnosis become incurable by the time of treatment or patients become too weak for the surgical procedure.

It is true that we have health care problems in the United States, but it is not because ours is a free market system.  Nearly 50 percent of all health expenditures are made by the government, and where government spends, it regulates.  However, if socialized medicine becomes a reality, Americans can do as many Brits do, join in medical tourism, says Williams.  More than 70,000 Britons have gone as far as India, Malaysia and South Africa for major operations. 

Source: Walter E. Williams, "Affordable Health Care," Townhall, October 22, 2008; Michael Walker, Nadeem Esmail and Maureen Hazel, "Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada," Fraser Institute, October 7, 2008; Michael Tanner, "The Grass Is Not Always Greener," Cato Institute, Policy Analysis No. 613, March 18, 2008.

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