NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Prescription for Disaster

March 10, 2003

A popular rallying cry for supporters of universal health care has been Canada's single-payer system. But Canada only offers a false promise for what ails the United States, says author Sally Pipes, a former Canadian now living in the United States.

According to Pipes, Canada's system is an excellent example of what happens to the quality of care when government is the sole provider:

  • Long waiting lines for critical procedure and a lack of access to current technology.
  • Increasing costs to taxpayers and patients.
  • A brain drain of doctors, who head south for better working conditions and more money.

In a related study, the Fraser Institute's surveyed Canadians on the average waiting time to see a physician. They found:

  • The total average waiting time for Canadian patients rose to 16.5 weeks in 2001-2002, 77 percent higher than in 1993.
  • In Ontario, the average waiting time in 2001-2002 for prostate cancer treatment after seeing a specialist increased to 8.5 weeks from 6.5 weeks in 2000-2001.

Canadians have shown signs that they no longer tolerate such a system. In response to increasing outrage over health care quality and access, Prime Minister Jean Chretien investigated the system. After 18 months and a cost of $15 million, the subsequent report concluded that there is nothing wrong with the troubled system that more money, more regulations and fewer private alternatives won't cure.

Admirers of Canada's troubled system seem to think the same logic applies on this side of the border, says Pipes. But that's a prescription for disaster.

Source: Sally Pipes, "Canadian-Style Health Care Isn't the Cure for U.S.' Ills," Investor's Business Daily, March 7, 2003, and Nadeem Esmail and Dr. Michael Walker, "Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada," (12th Edition), September 2002.


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