The state of Canada’s health care system is a hot topic in the U.S. Everyone’s heard the horror stories about how their brother-in-law’s mother’s former co-worker’s best friend who lives in Canada says she had to wait forever for treatment. For every one of those stories, there’s a cousin’s neighbor’s hairdresser whose Canadian uncle thinks their healthcare system is absolutely great. Putting aside these “insightful” anecdotes for awhile, what do the majority of Canadians really think about their healthcare system?
According to a recent Canadian survey by Harris Decima, 70 percent of the respondents say that Canada’s healthcare system is working well (either very well or fairly well). Further, 82-percent of respondents said they preferred the Canadian system to the American system, which was favored by only 8 percent of respondents. The preference for the Canadian system was found across all demographics and in all parts of Canada.
Think of how tough it is to get 82 percent of anyone to agree on anything. With 25 percent of respondents to a recent British magazine survey doubting that humans ever landed on the moon, there are probably very few topics that would garner 82 percent support of anyone so this result is pretty significant.
With a healthcare system that is so popular north of the border, you’d think we could learn at least a little something from Canada. American critics may call it socialized medicine, but what Canada has is really socialized insurance. Doctors run their own practices and do not work for the government, that is, medical delivery is private. Doctors bill the provinces under a single-payer system that is paid for via income tax and sales tax. All Canadians are covered and they pay no co-pays or deductibles, though they do pay a small monthly fee to the province, a fee that is often picked up by their employers. (Exact plan details vary by province.) Private insurers offer inexpensive add-on policies to cover those things that are not covered by the basic insurance, such as outpatient prescriptions and vision care. Again, exact details of what is or isn’t covered vary by province.
Oh, and Canada spends just over ten percent of its GDP on healthcare while the U.S. spends 16 percent. According to another survey, an overwhelming number of Canadians have a primary care doctor (85 percent) and would recommend their doctor to a family member or friend (92 percent).
So, the next time your brother-in-law’s mother’s former co-worker’s best friend who lives in Canada says she hates the Canadian healthcare system, ask her what the rest of the country thinks. Besides having a lot of great tourist destinations (I once had my picture taken with the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto), Canada also has a healthcare system that works for, and is appreciated by, its citizens.