NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 27, 2005

Nothing is free, not even health care in Canada. The issue is who bears the costs and how. In Canada, politicians control the monetary costs that show up on bureaucratic budgets by shifting costs to individuals who pay in the forms of increased pain, lost income and diminished quality of life, says Sally C. Pipes, president/CEO of the Pacific Research Institute.

  • Last year, more than 800,000 Canadians, 2.5 percent of the population, were waiting for health procedures.
  • The average wait to see a specialist, according to the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute, is nearly 10 weeks.
  • The institute pegs the estimated cost to these patients at $2.2 billion, or roughly $2,700 a person.

The problems plaguing Canada's health care system -- long lines, lack of access to technology and dwindling doctor supply -- are unavoidable in a single payer system. Consider the lack of technology. Since procedures are "free," investing in technology merely costs the government money. Government officials have a strong incentive to underinvest in advanced technology, and they do, says Pipes.

  • Canada ranks 20th of 25 industrialized countries in the number of MRI machines.
  • It ranks 16th of 25 for CT scans, and 8th of 22 for access to radiation therapy machines.
  • As for the relatively new Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans, at least one province flat-out refuses to invest in them.

Although touted by U.S. admirers as cost effective, the Canadian system is not inexpensive, it's merely cheap. Financed through heavy taxes, the average Canadian spends $7,350 a year to support the system. Yet for all this spending, Canadians are increasingly discovering they can't even get an appointment with a family physician, says Pipes.

Source: Sally Pipes, "Americans should heed Canadians' health woes," Seattle Post Intelligencer, June 17, 2005.

For text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues