By Kristen Johnson
Debate #2 included Donald Trump’s swipe at Hillary Clinton’s healthcare proposal and Canadian healthcare:
“She wants to go to a single-payer plan, which would be a disaster, somewhat similar to Canada.” Canadians, he continued, “when they need a big operation, when something happens, they come into the United States, in many cases because their system is so slow, it’s catastrophic in certain ways”. (The Guardian).
I have long advocated for single-payer healthcare (which sadly Hillary Clinton is not proposing to implement) in this country, and I have often looked to Canada as my inspiration for such a system. I did a little checking to see how healthcare really stands in Canada.
The Fraser Institute reported last year that in 2014, more than 52,000 Canadians sought non-emergency medical treatment outside Canada (though it does not say in which countries they sought such treatment, namely the U.S. or elsewhere). To compare, also in 2012, an estimated 600,000-800,000 Americans sought healthcare outside the U.S. with an estimated 900,000 doing the same in 2013. (Dark Daily Clinical Laboratory News).
When it comes to wait times, the National Post reports:
The Fraser Institute study suggests that, on average, a Canadian patient waits 9.8 weeks to receive medical treatment after seeing a specialist. Tack on the average wait time of 8.5 weeks from when their doctor refers them to the specialist, and the wait time is more than four months.
It was difficult to find a wait-time comparison in the U.S. for “seeing a specialist.” Apparently, we don’t wait long for non-urgent procedures (MRIs, knee replacement, botox). But:
Americans are more likely to wait for office-based medical appointments that are not good sources of revenue for hospitals and doctors. In other countries, people tend to wait longest for expensive elective care — four to six months for a knee replacement and over a month for follow-up radiation therapy after cancer surgery in Canada, for example. (New York Times).
Two last thoughts on Canadian versus American systems from AARP:
On wait times:
In 1966, Canada implemented a single-payer health care system, which is also known as Medicare. Since then, as a country, Canadians have made a conscious decision to hold down costs. One of the ways they do that is by limiting supply, mostly for elective things, which can create wait times. Their outcomes are otherwise comparable to ours.
Please understand, the wait times could be overcome. Canadians could spend more. They don’t want to. We can choose to dislike wait times in principle, but they are a byproduct of Canada’s choice to be fiscally conservative.
Finally, about one in five of the Americans surveyed had struggled to pay or were unable to pay their medical bills in the preceding year. That was more than twice the percentage found in any of the other 10 countries.
And remember: We’re spending way more on health care than any other country, and for all that money we’re getting at best middling results.
Shame on politicians in the U.S. for continuing to demonize Canada’s system, when our own system is so clearly deficient in so many ways. Shame on U.S. politicians for continuing to “fight” to disable Obamacare which really goes back to a system of allowing healthcare for the “haves” and not allowing it for the “have nots.” Healthcare is a basic right which should be afforded to all citizens.
Canada – we should be jealous of your healthcare system. It seeks to serve all, like we should be doing.
1 John 3:17-18 (NRSV): 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister[a] in need and yet refuses help? 18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
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