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Canadian Health Care

I have not been paying much attention to the US health care debates, but I gather those opposed to Obama’s health plan have been portraying Canada as some kind of healthcare disaster. “We don’t want to be like Canada,” they say, “where the government has ruined healthcare.”

My wife Christine is an emergency doctor, so I know a bit about the problems in Quebec, which is probably as “bad” as anywhere in Canada.

The concise description of Canada’s health system is the following: critical health issues are dealt with quickly, and well. Less critical health issues mean longer wait times. And generally health outcomes in Canada are equivalent to outcomes in other industrial countries, and often better than those in the US.

Plus, we have universal coverage: for most healthcare, you don’t pay a cent, except through taxes (which turns out to be a much cheaper way to do it than thru insurance).

There is an excellent article in Bloomberg, Canadian Health Care Even with Queues, Beats US looking at the studies done in the past five years, including a recent one done by the OECD:

Opponents of overhauling U.S. health care argue that Canada shows what happens when government gets involved in medicine, saying the country is plagued by inferior treatment, rationing and months-long queues.

The allegations are wrong by almost every measure, according to research by the O and other independent studies published during the past five years. While delays do occur for non-emergency procedures, data indicate that Canada’s system of universal health coverage provides care as good as in the U.S., at a cost 47 percent less for each person.

“There is an image of Canadians flooding across the border to get care,” said Donald Berwick, a Harvard University health- policy specialist and pediatrician who heads the Boston-based nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “That’s just not the case. The public in Canada is far more satisfied with the system than they are in the U.S. and health care is at least as good, with much more contained costs.” [more…]