Myths and Truths about the Canadian Health Care System

June 19, 2014

As Americans debate the future of health care reform, it is important to separate myths from reality, warn Jason Clemens and Bacchus Barua, both of the Fraser Institute in Canada. One aspect of the debate that is often filled with misinformation is the state of the Canadian health care system.

Clemens and Barua identify a number of misconceptions and realities about the Canadian system:

  • A single-payer model is not required for universal health care -- other OECD countries offer universal health care without using a single-payer model.
  • The Canadian health care system is very expensive -- it is the second most expensive health care system among industrialized countries with universal health care. Expense itself is not an issue, except when expenditures are not matched by value.
  • In 2013, Canadians faced an average wait time of 4.5 months for necessary medical treatment after referral by a general practitioner -- almost double the wait time that patients saw in 1993.
  • Again, Canada has longer wait times that many other countries with universal health care. In 2010, 41 percent of Canadian patients waited for at least two months to see a specialist. In Switzerland, that figure was only 5 percent.

These wait times clearly have negative impacts on patients:

  • The waits can result in suffering, anguish, loss of economic productivity and massive discomfort.
  • Recent research suggests that between 25,456 and 63,090 Canadian women died between 1993 and 2009 due to increased wait times.
  • Furthermore, the waiting periods can lead to worse health outcomes, including chronic conditions and disabilities.

As Americans debate the government's role in health care, say Clemens and Barua, it is important that facts dominate the discussion. The reality is that the Canadian healthcare system is a model to avoid, not emulate.

Source: Jason Clemens and Bacchus Barua, "If Universal Health Care Is The Goal, Don't Copy Canada," Forbes, June 13, 2014

 

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