Differently bad

Differently bad

The Wall St. Journal printed a series of letters debating the merits of an academic paper suggesting the Canadian health care system is cheaper and better. Defenders of the US system cite waiting lists, lack of equipment, and general difficulties of access to put down Canada. The paper’s authors cite health statistics showing Canadians are healthier despite spending half the US per capita figure on health care.

The truth is that both countries’ systems are lousy. Canadians are routinely denied care that would be considered appropriate and necessary in the US. The results can be fatal . And yes, rich Canadians do come to the US for care or bribe their surgeons to get to the head of the line. But Canada still seems to achieve equivalent or better results on average. We have plenty of access problems in the US, too. And it’s not just for people low on the socioeconomic ladder. Try getting a timely appointment with a specialist in Massachusetts, where spending is higher than anywhere in the world. And the rate of errors in the US –and Canada– borders on and in some case crosses over into the criminal category.

June 23, 2006

2 thoughts on “Differently bad”

  1. Continuing to compare our own system to Canada’s (or sometimes the UK’s) is a false choice perpetuated by those who want to maintain the status quo. To continue to make (still more) comparisons of our system and theirs is a disservice to the reader that has been done to death.

    Of all the public health coverage systems in the world, the closest to pure single-payor is the UK’s, followed closely by Canada’s. Even if we all agree that these both deliver somewhat better care at substantially lower cost than our own system (a truth no one can argue), they are burdened with problems which have been discussed to death (see the cited references, or Google for more). And in terms of whether we could ever adopt such systems, it would be a political impossiblity, so why discuss them at all?

    I wish someone would get serious about reform and look at the hybrid public-private plans in countries like France (my favorite), Japan (many cultural differences, but much to be learned here), Switzerland and Germany. They deliver significantly better care at substantially lower cost.

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