Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What do Canadians really think about their healthcare system?

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.


  1. This is interesting. My question is, are CATS covered under family health care plan?

  2. Strange comment. Nearly 3 million Canadians can't get a family doctor. Shortage. And it can take many months to get a special procedure. Why is that many come to the states for procedures they can't get in Canada. Thousands. Thousands of Europeans and English also.

    1. Not so strange if you can't pay for any health care. I had a cavity 5 years ago and couldn't pay to get it fixed. I now have no less than 7 cavities, one very severe and still, can't pay to get them fixed. A person with conditions that are not curable: asthma, diabetes, etc... have no treatment. Waiting many months is much more hopeful. If you can pay for care that option would still be available.

    2. jrayn. Take the $30 a month that you are spending on your internet service (or the salary you're getting as you type this at work) and make monthly payments to your dentist. The next stop is a $1500 implant.

  3. The US does lead the world in medicine and technology. But the US ranks so poorly because of the delivery of such to it's very citizens. Death rates for illnesses and diseases that can easily be treated is high in the US because of the number of uninsured, underinsured and denial of treatment. Many from other countries come to the US for treatments. This is true. They are also wealthy with no need for insurance to pay for the procedures they receive. Many Americans also go overseas for treatments not available in the US. Most you do not hear about. Many you hear are high-profile celebrities. One of the latest being the late Farah Fawcett. And even then, these people have the money to spend with no need for insurance.

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