Democrats Eye Canada’s Failed Healthcare System – Why?


Democrats in Congress are working to resurrect the Build Back Better Act, their massive social spending proposal that stalled in the Senate last month.

To be certain, there’s plenty of disagreement across the party’s moderate and progressive wings. Yet, they’re largely aligned on healthcare.

Indeed, Democrats are determined to increase the number of Americans who are dependent on the federal government for health benefits, whether by enhancing Obamacare’s premium subsidies or further expanding Medicaid.

As the feds take ownership over a greater and greater share of the health insurance market, progressives’ ultimate goal of Medicare for All draws closer and closer.

That should terrify anyone in America who is a patient. 

To see why, consider some recent evidence out of Canada, whose single-payer system is the beau ideal of progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

More than 7 in 10 Canadians believe the nation’s healthcare system “is too bureaucratic to respond quickly or adequately to the needs of the population,” according to a survey released last month.

majority of respondents said that recent investments in healthcare have either achieved nothing at all or made things worse. And nearly six in ten desire “increased access to healthcare services provided by independent health entrepreneurs.”

These attitudes are more than understandable, given the abysmal treatment Canadians endure. In 2021, the median wait for specialist care after a referral from a general practitioner was 25.6 weeks, according to the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver think tank.

That’s three weeks longer than in 2020 — and more than four months longer than in 1993, when Fraser began keeping track.

In Manitoba, the waits have become so long (and bad) that the government is sending patients to the United States to receive care.

Last week, the province announced that it would send up to 300 patients who have been waiting more than a year for spinal surgery to Fargo, N.D., for their procedures.

It may do the same for people in need of joint surgery, too.

Waits have lengthened despite significant increases in healthcare spending. Canada spent 7% of GDP on health care in 1975 — and devotes 12.7% of its economy to the sector now.

Not surprisingly, the coronavirus omicron variant has stretched Canada’s system even closer towards the breaking point.

Former Canadian health minister Jane Philpott recently told the CBC that “There is not a single thing that will fix the whole picture.” She warned against “spending more money to do a lot of things the same way that we’ve always done them.”

Canadians pay a lot for this poor care. Last year, according to Fraser, a couple with no children earning just over US$98,000 ($123,996 Canadian dollars) paid over US$10,700 ($13,533 Canadian dollars) in taxes for public health insurance.

And that coverage is not comprehensive.

The country’s single-payer system generally does not cover outpatient prescription drugs.

Dental and vision care aren’t covered, either.

In 2018, Canadians covered nearly 15% of their health costs out of pocket, according to data from the World Bank.

Americans actually pay for a smaller share of their care out of pocket — just under 11%.

It’s true that America’s level of health spending is higher than Canada’s, in dollar terms and as a share of our economy. But you can’t escape the fact that they quality of care provided in the United States provides is incomparably better.

American patients don’t routinely wait half a year for procedures like hip replacements.

In Canada, such waits are a fact of life.

Those of us who are stateside also have access to the most innovative drugs.

Between 2011 and 2019, 98 cancer medications were launched worldwide. Americans had access to 96% of them; Canadians, just 59%.

Moreover, America has led globally in medical innovation for decades largely because our system rewards the kind of risk-taking that leads to real breakthroughs.

Without our market-based infrastructure, the historic effort to create safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines wouldn’t have been possible.

By contrast, Canada’s drug industry has atrophied, in large part because the country’s single-payer system has made clear that it will not pay for innovative drugs.

The United States has built one of the world’s most indispensable healthcare systems by avoiding socialized medicine. Canada’s system isn’t a model — it’s a cautionary tale.

Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and the Thomas W. Smith fellow in healthcare policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is “False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All,” (Encounter Books 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes. Read Sally Pipes’ Reports — More Here.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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