CANADA'S OBAMACARE PRECEDENT

June 9, 2009

Congressional Democrats will soon put forward their legislative proposals for reforming health care.  Should they succeed, tens of millions of Americans will potentially be joining a new public insurance program and the federal government will increasingly be involved in treatment decisions, says Dr. David Gratzer, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute.

Yes, everyone in Canada is covered by a "single payer" -- the government.  But Canadians wait for practically any procedure or diagnostic test or specialist consultation in the public system.  Meanwhile, Canada's provincial governments themselves rely on American medicine:

  • Between 2006 and 2008, Ontario sent more than 160 patients to New York and Michigan for emergency neurosurgery -- described by the Globe and Mail newspaper as "broken necks, burst aneurysms and other types of bleeding in or around the brain."
  • Only half of ER patients are treated in a timely manner by national and international standards, according to a government study.
  • The physician shortage is so severe that some towns hold lotteries, with the winners gaining access to the local doc.

Overall, according to a study published in Lancet Oncology last year:

  • Five-year cancer survival rates are higher in the United States than those in Canada.
  • Based on data from the Joint Canada/U.S. Survey of Health (done by Statistics Canada and the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics), Americans have greater access to preventive screening tests and have higher treatment rates for chronic illnesses.

No wonder, says Gratzer:

  • To limit the growth in health spending, governments restrict the supply of health care by rationing it through waiting.
  • The same survey data show, as June and Paul O'Neill note in a paper published in 2007 in the Forum for Health Economics & Policy, that the poor under socialized medicine seem to be less healthy relative to the nonpoor than their American counterparts.

Ironically, as the United States is on the verge of rushing toward government health care, Canada is reforming its system in the opposite direction:

  • Dr. Brian Day, an orthopedic surgeon and former president of the Canadian Medical Association, estimates that 50,000 people are seen at private clinics every year in British Columbia.
  • According to the New York Times, a private clinic opens at a rate of about one a week across the country.
  • Public-private partnerships, once a taboo topic, are embraced by provincial governments.

Source: Dr. David Gratzer, "Canada's ObamaCare Precedent," Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2009.

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