NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 19, 2006

Canadians are viewed as being healthier and having better access to health care than Americans, and at lower overall cost; but David Gratzer, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, questions whether their government run system is really superior.

A recent study finds that the answer is yes; universal coverage under a national health insurance system is key to improving health. According to researchers:

  • Canadians are more likely to have a regular physician, to have seen a doctor in the past year and to be able to afford medications.
  • They are also healthier and live two to three years longer, while Americans have higher rates of diabetes (6.7 percent versus 4.7 percent), arthritis (17.9 percent versus 16 percent) and high blood pressure (18.3 percent versus 13.9 percent).
  • Americans are also more likely to be obese and lead a sedentary lifestyle.

However, we shouldn't confuse problems in public health with flaws in health-care systems; and if we look at how well each system serves its sick citizens, the American one excels, says Gratzer:

  • Americans are more likely to have received a pap test and mammogram, as well as treatment for high blood pressure.
  • The mortality rate from prostate cancer among American men is 19 percent, compared to 25 percent in Canada and 57 percent in the United Kingdom.
  • In comparisons of cardiac care, Americans also fair far better than their peers in other countries.
  • Overall, Americans are generally more satisfied with their health care.

Furthermore, socialized health-care systems fall short in critical cases because governments strictly ration care and as a result, patients have less access to specialists, diagnostic equipment and pharmaceuticals, says Gratzer.

Source: David Gratzer, "Where Would You Rather Be Sick?" Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2006; based upon: Karen E. Lasser et al, "Access to Care, Health Status, and Health Disparities in the United States and Canada: Results of a Cross-National Population-Based Survey," American Journal of Public Health, May 2006.

For study abstract:


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