Monday, June 8, 2009

Canada's Not-So-Awful Healthcare System

Growing up in the US, I often heard some pretty awful horror stories about Canada's healthcare system (never from Canadians, though).

Canada's supposedly long wait times, high taxes, and the huge number of people dying before they received care was often flaunted to me as a reason we shouldn't use a single-payer healthcare system.

This op-ed from the Denver Post hopes to get rid of those mucky myths:

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.

Though you will often see Canadians complain about their healthcare system, if you ask them if they find it preferable to the US system, the answer is almost universally no.

I should point out that I'm personally more of an advocate of the French or Australian systems, which are a lot better (though Canada still kicks the teeth out of ours).