Debunking Canadian health care myths

Written by Rhonda Hackett

As a Canadian living in the United States for the past 17 years, I am frequently asked by Americans and Canadians alike to declare one health care system as the better one.

Often I’ll avoid answering, regardless of the questioner’s nationality. To choose one or the other system usually translates into a heated discussion of each one’s merits, pitfalls, and an intense recitation of commonly cited statistical comparisons of the two systems.

Because if the only way we compared the two systems was with statistics, there is a clear victor. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to dispute the fact that Canada spends less money on health care to get better outcomes.

Yet, the debate rages on. Indeed, it has reached a fever pitch since President Barack Obama took office, with Americans either dreading or hoping for the dawn of a single-payer health care system. Opponents of such a system cite Canada as the best example of what not to do, while proponents laud that very same Canadian system as the answer to all of America’s health care problems. Frankly, both sides often get things wrong when trotting out Canada to further their respective arguments.

As America comes to grips with the reality that changes are desperately needed within its health care infrastructure, it might prove useful to first debunk some myths about the Canadian system.

Myth: Taxes in Canada are extremely high, mostly because of national health care.

In actuality, taxes are nearly equal on both sides of the border. Overall, Canada’s taxes are slightly higher than those in the U.S. However, Canadians are afforded many benefits for their tax dollars, even beyond health care (e.g., tax credits, family allowance, cheaper higher education), so the end result is a wash. At the end of the day, the average after-tax income of Canadian workers is equal to about 82 percent of their gross pay. In the U.S., that average is 81.9 percent.

Myth: Canada’s health care system is a cumbersome bureaucracy.

The U.S. has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care in the U.S. goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, profits, etc. The provincial single-payer system in Canada operates with just a 1 percent overhead. Think about it. It is not necessary to spend a huge amount of money to decide who gets care and who doesn’t when everybody is covered.

Myth: The Canadian system is significantly more expensive than that of the U.S.Ten percent of Canada’s GDP is spent on health care for 100 percent of the population. The U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP but 15 percent of its population has no coverage whatsoever and millions of others have inadequate coverage. In essence, the U.S. system is considerably more expensive than Canada’s. Part of the reason for this is uninsured and underinsured people in the U.S. still get sick and eventually seek care. People who cannot afford care wait until advanced stages of an illness to see a doctor and then do so through emergency rooms, which cost considerably more than primary care services.

What the American taxpayer may not realize is that such care costs about $45 billion per year, and someone has to pay it. This is why insurance premiums increase every year for insured patients while co-pays and deductibles also rise rapidly.

Myth: Canada’s government decides who gets health care and when they get it.While HMOs and other private medical insurers in the U.S. do indeed make such decisions, the only people in Canada to do so are physicians. In Canada, the government has absolutely no say in who gets care or how they get it. Medical decisions are left entirely up to doctors, as they should be.

There are no requirements for pre-authorization whatsoever. If your family doctor says you need an MRI, you get one. In the U.S., if an insurance administrator says you are not getting an MRI, you don’t get one no matter what your doctor thinks – unless, of course, you have the money to cover the cost.

Myth: There are long waits for care, which compromise access to care.There are no waits for urgent or primary care in Canada. There are reasonable waits for most specialists’ care, and much longer waits for elective surgery. Yes, there are those instances where a patient can wait up to a month for radiation therapy for breast cancer or prostate cancer, for example. However, the wait has nothing to do with money per se, but everything to do with the lack of radiation therapists. Despite such waits, however, it is noteworthy that Canada boasts lower incident and mortality rates than the U.S. for all cancers combined, according to the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group and the Canadian Cancer Society. Moreover, fewer Canadians (11.3 percent) than Americans (14.4 percent) admit unmet health care needs.

Myth: Canadians are paying out of pocket to come to the U.S. for medical care.Most patients who come from Canada to the U.S. for health care are those whose costs are covered by the Canadian governments. If a Canadian goes outside of the country to get services that are deemed medically necessary, not experimental, and are not available at home for whatever reason (e.g., shortage or absence of high tech medical equipment; a longer wait for service than is medically prudent; or lack of physician expertise), the provincial government where you live fully funds your care. Those patients who do come to the U.S. for care and pay out of pocket are those who perceive their care to be more urgent than it likely is.

Myth: Canada is a socialized health care system in which the government runs hospitals and where doctors work for the government.Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt says single-payer systems are not “socialized medicine” but “social insurance” systems because doctors work in the private sector while their pay comes from a public source. Most physicians in Canada are self-employed. They are not employees of the government nor are they accountable to the government. Doctors are accountable to their patients only. More than 90 percent of physicians in Canada are paid on a fee-for-service basis. Claims are submitted to a single provincial health care plan for reimbursement, whereas in the U.S., claims are submitted to a multitude of insurance providers. Moreover, Canadian hospitals are controlled by private boards and/or regional health authorities rather than being part of or run by the government.

Myth: There aren’t enough doctors in Canada.

From a purely statistical standpoint, there are enough physicians in Canada to meet the health care needs of its people. But most doctors practice in large urban areas, leaving rural areas with bona fide shortages. This situation is no different than that being experienced in the U.S. Simply training and employing more doctors is not likely to have any significant impact on this specific problem. Whatever issues there are with having an adequate number of doctors in any one geographical area, they have nothing to do with the single-payer system.

And these are just some of the myths about the Canadian health care system. While emulating the Canadian system will likely not fix U.S. health care, it probably isn’t the big bad “socialist” bogeyman it has been made out to be.

It is not a perfect system, but it has its merits. For people like my 55-year-old Aunt Betty, who has been waiting for 14 months for knee-replacement surgery due to a long history of arthritis, it is the superior system. Her $35,000-plus surgery is finally scheduled for next month. She has been in pain, and her quality of life has been compromised. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Aunt Betty – who lives on a fixed income and could never afford private health insurance, much less the cost of the surgery and requisite follow-up care – will soon sport a new, high-tech knee. Waiting 14 months for the procedure is easy when the alternative is living in pain for the rest of your life.

Rhonda Hackett of Castle Rock is a clinical psychologist.

32 thoughts on “Debunking Canadian health care myths

  1. Glenda

    I think this doctor is talking about the Canadian Health Care system as it used to be before 17 years, when she used to live in Canada, but things have changed since then.

    Now we have a shortage of family doctors everywhere. In the city where I live, there are about 20,000 people without a family doctor (the city’s population is 72000 people). And most family doctors hire a Nurse Practitioner in order to accomodate more patients. The nurse checks patients, makes decisions and prescribes medications. We also have a shortage of specialist. It takes about 3 months to see one. Many canadians leave to the US to get treatment because it takes a long time to get one, and as far as I know, they pay from their own pocket or from insurance.

    Canadian tax also depends on the income. The more money you make, the more taxes you pay. Also people with a higher income don’t get that much of family allowance or benefits. When my husband and I used to work, they’d cut about 30% of my salary and about 40% of my husband’s salary, and at the end of the year before filling our income tax, we have to deposit money in RRSP’s otherwise we’d end up owing the governement more taxes. We also pay taxes on purchases we make (15%). We pay taxes on the interest we earn in our bank accounts. We pay taxes on our yearly tax returns such as the Health care tax. We also pay taxes on the properties we own (starting at $150 a month and higher), even if you own just one house. We pay taxes on our utilities bills (15%). We even pay taxes on the child benefit we get from the governement because it is considered an income!

    As for education, it used to be cheap in the early 90’s (over 17 years ago) but not anymore. I used to pay $1500 for a full year in university in the early 90’s. Now it’s about $6000 a year.

    One final note, not all health care cost is covered by the government. Physiotherapy, prolotherapy, chiropractics, eye exams and dentists costs are not covered by the government. Canadians pay from their pockets or insurance will pay a portion of it if they have one.

    I believe this doctor is trying to mislead the American reader or simply talking about things as they used to be over 17 years ago.

  2. Marc

    actually, I think this person is talking about the Canadian system in a way that it never was. 13 years ago, my wife almost died when a walk in clinic sent her to emergency and called ahead for the hospital to expect us. She was to be put on an IV as soon as we got there. Well, in spite of the phone call and in spite of my concerns, we waited 4 hours in the emergency waiting room, there was no IV administered and she went from bad to worse. After the 4 hour wait, she was moved from waiting room to another room, but waited another hour to see the doctor. His initial tests indicated she might have appendicitis but, unfortunately, they didn’t handle those issues at this hospital and we would have to go to another. They asked if we wanted an ambulance to take her there, which I declined. I had no faith that they would get her to the right hospital. They called ahead to prepare the other hospital so she could get immediate care. When we got to the other hospital, they stammered a lot and made us sit in a waiting room. Apparently, they expected a male patient and had made a room in the wrong area. My wife’s name can’t be confused as a male name. It was 24 hours from the time she went to the walk in clinic to the time she had her appendix removed. That is more than enough time for fatal results. She was sick for a very long time after that.

    I won’t tell you about when our son was born. That story would horrify you.

  3. Floam

    In actuality Glenda, the statistics in this article are correct. In large urban areas, there are plenty of doctors to be had when you realize new clinics are cropping up all the time looking for new patients. There are absolutely shortages in rural areas, but like the article states, the situation is no different in the US.

    As far as education, you have to realize that $6000 might seem expensive compared to what you may have paid 15 years ago, but it is a huge bargain considering the same education in a US school would be 10x that amount (yes, $40,000 to $60, 000 a year)

    Compared to history, the perception of some in Canada is that the health system is somehow falling apart, but compared to what the US has to deal with, the Canadian system is the cream of the crop.

    Honestly, stop complaining, and be thankful for the what you have.

    We had preemie twins born almost 3 months early, and had to spend 11 weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit in Toronto. In the end, we took our babies home and didn’t have to worry about paying a dime. Try that in the US, and you have a very good chance of declaring bankruptcy. Heck, you might lose your shirt just having a kid delivered.

  4. foxe

    “As far as education, you have to realize that $6000 might seem expensive compared to what you may have paid 15 years ago, but it is a huge bargain considering the same education in a US school would be 10x that amount (yes, $40,000 to $60, 000 a year)”

    Wtf?! Maybe that’s how much an Ivy League costs, but if I remember correctly, a few years ago one year at a state college where I live was ~$3,000 per year. Or ~$3,500 for a two year degree from one of the local community colleges. $40k a year is nuts unless maybe you’re studying to be a doctor or a rocket scientist.

  5. KIDRoach


    I don’t know where you studied but generally, for an out of state student, it costs about $25,000 for a year’s tuition fee in a decent university. Ivy Techs are generally more expensive I think. Around the $40,000 mark annually. And books are insanely overpriced. Cost around $600 per semester for a normal engineering student.

    You’re probably talking about being an in-state student. As an in-state student, your tuition fee varies depending on your state and your university’s policy.

    It’s not the case of “The grass is always greener on the other side”. The grass is pretty green in Canada alright ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. maxicon

    I can guarantee that the income tax statistics are skewed. Without more detail, it’s difficult to compare.

    In the USA in 2007, 40% of wage earners pay no federal income taxes at all (mostly lower income families), and the burden falls on the middle and upper class. The top 5% pays over 50% of federal taxes. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (that’s another discussion), it distorts the statistics.

    81.9% after-tax income? Ask any of your middle-class friends whether they pay that little in taxes. I can’t imagine I’d pay that little in Canada, either, with my middle-class job.

    Likewise, for college costs, $25-40k is for private or out of state schools, which is a trade-off people make who can afford it. Those of us who can’t send our kids to state colleges for $5-10k/year.

    You can’t present a reasonable analysis of such a complex subject with gross data like this.

  7. M. Chaar

    What is she talking about.
    Who pays the Doctors? The Governement. So the Dr’s are employees.
    Is a matter of your rhetoric. The Government pays the company or group so we can say you are somehow there employee. If they stop paying you do not get the money. Also government regulates the whole playing field and you do not have a say.
    I am a Dr. in the U.S. and continually see patients from Canada and every single one is not happy at all with their sysytem.
    Naming the system is not important. What is important is that is Government controlled. And if you don’t like it you will have to deal with it one way or the other since it is the only option.
    You cannot pay out of pocket to a Dr. to see you. It is prohibited.
    This is central government in its Maximum Expression.
    The author talks about underinsured in the U.S. , well in Canada because there are things that are not available period that will be considered also underinsured becuase it is not covered.
    Has she not read the archives of at least 2 years of newspaper articles from both The U.K. and Canada about the long waiting lists for surgeries and other procedures according to a patient’s age etc.??

    Old people are expendable according to this type of practice of medicine. Is called Rationing.
    Is bad medicine.
    This article is outdated because the author is talking about the healthcare sysytem of Canada a long time ago.

  8. Mike Martin

    I’ve been living in the US for 12 years now and you just can’t beat sense into the heads of these morons down here. They’ve been ripped off for so long so often by doctors and insurance, pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies they will actually fight tooth and nail to keep the Canadian system out of the US. Maybe because like a vicious cancer, these leeches on the health care system in the US are so deeply ingrained that it is almost impossible to eradicate them. Just use this as a glimpse into the American mindset on health care – listen to any radio or watch any regular TV program…more than half the commercials are from pharmaceutical companies hawking drugs. To a Canadian this is highly unethical. Also, it is routine to see giant billboards with words to this effect, “That pain in your chest may just be heartburn, but what if?..Visit Joe Blow Hospital and get it checked out” Can you believe that? Hospital Billboard advertisements? Now don’t even try and tell me that the American system is better than Canada’s. Twenty years ago my wife’s father had to sell his house and eventually declare bankruptcy paying for my wife’s mother’s medical treatment and care after she had a stroke. Don’t even try and dare tell me that you can get any medical treatment you want in the US. If you’re rich, maybe. The rich down here think that laws don’t apply to them.

    1. mark

      The main reason that new high-tech medications exist is because of US capitalism and if we relied on the Canadain socialist system we would still be using Penicillin. The meds are cheap in canada because the gov’t “outlaws” the making of a profit from new medications. US pharm companies essentially make a few cents from a prescription in Canada!! The darn Canadians benefit from Pharm companies in the US over-charging here. The profit is what drove them to invent new medications and allowed the R/D to do it. If the Candadian system was so great I would love to ask the Canadian docs and hopsitals to temporarily get rid of every medications, procedures, technique etc.. that was invented and made in the US and see how great their healthcare is. Very hypocritical. Our system has helped the entire world whether or not you hate the way it is done.

  9. eric g

    We don’t wait in lines. We don’t pay as much in sales taxes yet.

    We have choice. We need to fix Medicare!

    The same socialists pushing this huge NEW TAX for healthcare are the SAME IDIOTS who created the bs called Medicare.

    Now you know why we despise Socialism , Canada and our Votebuying Congress

  10. BP

    @M. Chaar

    Your out to lunch, did you not actually read the article?

    Most doctors are independent, they just *bill the government* and not the patient, it’s just like you do when you treat an insured patient.

    Frankly as a Canadian I fight to keep our system, I can’t imagine a place where I can’t just walk into any practice or hospital and consult or get treatment… its *barbaric* that you can’t in the US.

    I have certainly talked to folks who didn’t like the canadian system, but I’ve talked to a lot more who do… do you think your patients might be a bit bias since they ended up down there in the first place?

    Get over your self.

  11. BP

    @Mike Martin

    I noticed the commercials down there as well… right away in fact… you can’t escape them.

    It completely flabbergasted me and when you take it into consideration, it’s actually very clear why there is such a campaign to prevent Canadian style health care from coming to the states… to many people who make their money from human suffering, would not make as much money.

    Over my career, I’ve been offered many jobs in the states and in europe… the US is the only place I *refuse* to live and their health system is one of the major reasons.

  12. lvleph

    I can comment on the education cost in the USA, as I am a grad student and my wife is an undergrad. Currently the cost of tuition for me per semester is about $9000 and for my wife it is about $6000. This is at Virginia Tech.

    I am one of those in the USA that does not have health care. I cannot afford to pay $2000+ per year for my health insurance let alone another $2000+ for my wife’s health insurance. This would amount to 1/5 our income. I go about hoping I won’t get sick or hurt, and when I do I ignore it hoping it will get better.

    For those that complain about wait times in Canada… In the USA there are wait times too, and your insurance can deny the claim all together. Additionally, someone mentioned a near death while waiting in the ER, this occurs in the USA too.

    @Glenda The USA has all those taxes too, maybe some of them are at a lower rate.

  13. young one

    As a young Canadian I find it fascinating that these myths about our health care system even exist south of the border. I thought with the popularity of Jack Bouer’s character in 24, by now all of you would have researched the Sutherland family, and more specifically the effect of Tommy Douglas’ fabulous medicare system.

    We as a people have, I think, pretty collectively already accepted the beauty of our system. Instead of bottom line economic ethics I see being discussed in this forum, for example the extent of our taxes and the percentage of paperwork cost, we actually are only concerned with the true meaning of life.

    When this May my Uncle died of cancer, it wasn’t because of the effectiveness of the treatment rather than the full out refusal of treatment. When he saw his mother die because of her radiation treatment many decades before he was forever changed by the experience. We all know that he would have survived his cancer treatments, and the length or extent of his time as a patient would be absolutely relevant to the severity of his case…. But he decided it was his time.

    As a people who collectively suffer the extremities of cold winters and short summers, as a hardworking and honest people… If we were denied our healthcare I know one thing.. and that is that we would not adopt the American style. Because as a young Canadian it is in my observation that the American perception of ‘quality of life’ is disturbingly self centered.

    peace out everyone.

  14. John Greesen

    I was playing baseball when I lived in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada in the early 90’s and twisted my knee up something terrible when I tried to move to catch a ball and my cleats decided they wanted to stay still. I went to the hospital and they scheduled me for an MRI at 4:32 in the morning (9 months in the future). I thought they were joking, but they were serious. I suffered on crutches awaiting my appointment before they would do surgery. Nine months later I showed up at the St. Boniface Hospital and had my MRI done.

    Jump ahead almost 15 years and I’m living down in the Twin Cities and my wife’s doctor says she’d like her to get an MRI. The doctor leaves to go and get the paperwork setup and I’m thinking that we’re going to get a card that says come back in a few months. To my surprise – 20 minutes later she had her MRI done. I explained about my “baseball” story and the doctor couldn’t believe what I suffered through.

    I have numerous other stories including older relatives waiting weeks to have heart surgery in Canada and were sent home with a wish and a prayer and a date to show up if they were still alive.

    There’s no perfect system, but in my limited experience with both sides – there’s no way that I would want to get sick in Canada. Of course, I’m fortunate enough to have enough money to afford insurance in the US.

  15. Benjamin

    I’m a Canadian living with a mild form of Hemophilia B. When I’m mildly or seriously injured, I’m required to take a Factor IX recombinant or else risk permanent damage to joints and muscle. Or in the most severe of cases, the risk is bleeding to death (internally or externally). The treatment I take costs about $2,000CDN per injection. It would cost me upwards of $15,000CDN to $25,000CDN for a yearly supply. And guess what– my treatments never cost me a dime. I’m completely covered by health care, and I go to St. Micheal’s Hospital in Toronto to their bleeding disorder clinic if I have any serious health concerns. They do a good job of caring for me when I need it and so does the hospital in my home county. The waiting for treatment has always been done in a reasonable time frame of about a few hours for minor problems to right away for emergencies. I’ve also never waited more than a week or two for MRI or other vital scans.

    Considering the nature of my condition, I’m extremely grateful at the thorough coverage I receive for the cost of nothing. I seriously don’t believe I’d have survived this long living in the United States.

    1. mark

      You are covered because we pay for that medication in the US. Someone allows pays. You benefit off of our work. Be happy your country sucks off of ours and from the inventions Americans worked hard to produce. If we all had the Canadian system you would not liekly have that medication at all. Think beyond yourself and what your govt “gives” you.

  16. Elliot Teaze

    I’m sure everyone can cite personal examples… positive and negative. My examples however, would be more in praise of the Canadian system. Whether it was my fathers’ lower aortic transplant in 2004 at age 82 (and still going strong 5 years later) or my son’s cochlear implant in 1991, my experiences with health care in my country throughout my 56 years have been prompt, professional and compassionate. Even with the emerging secondary “wealth-care tier” I’ll still choose to support public health care in this country. And thank that pinko premier Tommy Douglas for coming up with Saskatchewan’s “Medicaire” program that was so successful, it went national…

  17. roy

    Im Canadian. Quite happy with our health care. When i need to see the doctor I can. When i have to go to the emergancy room because a fishing hook is stuck in my hand (only happened once….) I get treated in a reasonable amount of time.

    Skimming through peoples stories i see ‘MRI’ pop up alot. The only time ive had an MRI i got it that day, and it wasnt a life or death kind of thing. Actually they insisted i come back in a week for a follow up MRI even though they were sure it would be totally unnessisary after seeing the results from the first one

  18. Ebony

    As an American, age 20, living in Oklahoma and also without family supporting myself through college. I’ll be damned if I have someone tell me the hardships of having to live in the easiest place to receive heathcare through the government. Recently, I became very ill and having multiple problems I decided to get on Medicare. In order to become a part of the program you have to jump through hoops. I had to give up a SECOND JOB which I used to support myself to go back to school and pay off bills just to be seen by a doctor (there is an income requirement of $1200 a monthish) without paying $500 a month just for hospital bills.

    America’s system may seem all fine and dandy to someone who is in the middle system, but may I remind you of how many Americans are in poverty and will NEVER be able to afford proper health care. The majority of doctors who are medicare doctors (the ones the majority of us poor Americans are allowed to see are through DHS) don’t give a shit about the people they see day in and day out. They are more concerned about receiving their paychecks and getting respect for taking a low end job and “helping” those they see less fortunate.

    As great as our government may seem to those who are nice and cozy sitting in there houses, it isn’t. How many Americans are poor and incapable of taking care of themselves because they dont have the resources to do so? Also, when looking at statistics look at how many Americans there are COMPARED to Canadians. Looking at the numbers there is a vast difference. I’m not fighting for one country or the other but what I am saying is that most people are ignorant and dont realize how many people are out there that have tried for years to get help and the help isn’t available to them.

    Imagine not being able to work because you dont have the money to PAY for a doctor.

  19. Marc W

    Just a note, for those of you reading, and the few that are responding:

    The author is a clinical psychologist, not a medically trained psychiatrist or care provider. Calling her “doctor” is a courtesy offered of her earning her Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD.

    The author is speaking outside of her experience realm. It is disappointing that the author would portray herself as a medical clinician, and confuse so many who might expect that this is the honored expert testimony of an medical provider experienced in the Canadian health care system.

    The author should update her message, and indicate her true level of experience and expertise. Otherwise, I would dismiss this as just another opinion or propaganda article from someone without the background to speak authoritatively.

  20. jack M.

    most of you, on both sides, are avoiding the point.
    ‘free’ healthcare isn’t free. you pay for yours, and everyone else’s, healthcare, for your entire life, through taxes – whether you need it or not.
    If you didn’t have over half your money taken by the government in the first place, maybe you could afford decent healthcare.

  21. DK

    I too have experience from many systems ranging from the US (company sponsored health insurance) to Sweden and UK (systems very similar to Canada).

    Of course there are inherent problems with all health care systems – mainly because ALL systems are rationing health care and resources one way or the other. To me it is as much a problem if the state does this as if the insurance company does it.

    However, I am still amazed that so few people understand who benefits most from status qou in the US system. The average doctor and to some extent nurses in the US are put on a piedestal and are grossly overpaid in comparison with any other western country (exception UK and some other countries). Also, in a country which does not use titles normally why should I call a person with medical education doctor?

    Still the main problem in the US is not quality but cost. If people think it is ok to pay 18-20 per cent of GDP on health care – go right ahead but I would prefer not to help pay for it. I would love to have a higher salary but no health care insurance included so I can make my own decision.

    Why does not Obama focus on the two main issues that can be addressed? i.e. legal costs of healthcare and lack of competion accross state lines? Oh I guess that would afffect doctors and lawyers two important voter groups.

  22. tj

    With the US having so many more people, does the comparison between the two countries lose much of its validity? Just wondering.

  23. Paul

    @ Marc W.

    The author of this article does not claim to be anything other than what she is – a Doctor. A clinical psychologist who received a PhD is Doctor with likely more education and training than a medical doctor. Her analysis of the general statistics of the two systems is entirely correct and the arguments here are about the nuances of how they can be interpreted.

    The Canadian system is not perfect and I doubt many would say it is. However, the misconceptions of our country that appear south of the border are unbelievable. Having lived in the US previously (while completely a PhD – I am now a health researcher) I was routinely amazed at how unwilling Americans were to accept faults in their own systems. In contrast, Canadians are more than willing to tell you the problems with ours – wait times, access, adequate funding for expensive treatments, etc… However, we are also willing to enter into a public debate about it and push for change.

    I cannot say the same for Americans. Despite soaring costs, poor health outcomes, and extreme inequality, Americans are still unwilling to even admit that there may be problems with their health system.

  24. david johnstone

    This article isn’t just well written, it is exceptionally well researched. The facts are the facts, despite individual and isolated instances of shortcomings in the system that exist on both sides of the border.

    My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in Nov 2008…within days he had the ‘roto-rooter’ procedure…followup(again within a few weeks) was radiation. Today he is completely cancer free.

    No one in Canada loses their home or goes bankrupt to save their life. Ever.

    Greatest nation on Earth? Maybe. Nowhere else I’d rather live? Definitely.

  25. Bast

    I'm an Australian and live with a very similar health care system as Canada, the UK and New Zealand.
    *Everyone* in entitled to healthcare in Australia, and I often have these exact arguments online with USAnians.
    Whilst sometimes people may wait 12 months for a hip/knee replacement, I've never seen anyone who needed urgent medical care (cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease as examples) turned away.
    Our taxes aren't much higher than the USA's, and we also have welfare, free education and training and still manage good healthcare. And we still managed to avoid the GFC!
    Like Canada, the only time people go overseas for treatment is if it is deemed to be experimental in Australia.
    From where I sit, the USA's attitude towards health reform is still very much cold war era, where anything that doesn't fit their idea of consumerism *must* be socialist, a word that the average American thinks is interchangeable with communist.
    Wake up USA, your health care system is killing your nation!

  26. karin

    Myth: There are long waits for care, which compromise access to care.

    This is absolutely true. I wait 2 weeks to see my GP, at least. My father waited 16 hours in a ER waiting room with a bone sticking out of his arm, before he was seen, or given any pain medication. He also was put on a 4 month waiting list for an MRI after having a stroke, a wait he decided to decline and went to the US to have one the next day.

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