Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blame Canada

This will be a very short post, but I think it's worth mentioning...

Whenever the conversation turns to a national health care system in the USA, the detractors invariably point at Canada and say "Canada's system sucks" and use that as the be all and end all of why national health care can never work.

The thing is, Canada's health system *does* suck.

Shock! Horror! Did he really just say that?

Yes, yes he did.

But listen carefully. Canada is not the only system to compare against.

In fact, in the Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index report published this very year, comparing Canada to 29 European health systems, Canada came in 23rd.

Canada is not the system to aspire to. They are working on their system, and their problems do not have to be the USA's problems.

This week we saw the release of the first annual Canada Health Consumer Index, spring-boarding off the afore-mentioned report. From that self-examining report:
· Access to healthcare varies widely from province to province, whether in terms of availability of family doctors and midwives, the affordability and timely approval of new drugs or the waiting time to see a specialist.
· Even the best-performing provinces do not provide the standard of care that is commonplace in Western Europe.
· Canada lacks a culture of accountability and transparency in healthcare, and it still puts providers and bureaucrats ahead of consumers.

So, my point is, stop pointing at Canada and declaring universal health care to be universally bad. Saying no to universal health care because Canada's is not great is like saying no to democratic elections because Iraq doesn't do them very well.

Pick the best performers and compare to *them*.


Anonymous said...

No doubt Canada's healthcare has its share of problems and is need of improvement - but how can a system that provides free and competent care *really* suck? It is a constant source of debate and discussion here in Canada - but at least free healthcare for all is at the top of the agenda and is regarded as a given. Transparency has also become an issue here - at least in Ontario - patients will be able to see the rating of hospitals and rate the care they receive online. This is part of a provincial government intiative.

Yes yes - blame Canada. Soon you'll be blaming us for the $700 billion bailout too. Not to mention that our side of the Niagara Falls is prettier.

Jaz said...

Everything is relative. I didn't mean to slam Canada in general, I just wanted to highlight the fact that many in the US delight in pointing at Canada and declaring victory for the free market over an easily-attacked national health system which - when compared to it's brethren systems in Europe - performs quite poorly.

In terms of offering health care to everyone Canada clearly shines over her neighbours to the south, however it is not the bellwether that the US should aspire to. Proponents of universal health care have better systems to compare to, aspire to, and detractors get off too easily pretending Canada's troubles are the likely outcome should the US nationalise health care.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that people who support the "free market system" (a misnomer if I ever heard one) in regards to healthcare, will scramble to find any reason to pounce on socialised healthcare.

Comparison is always a tricky business.

My gut feeling here is that it's a matter of ideology on both sides. Come to Canada and see that more or less our system *does* work. There are lots of kinks - for sure - but even the most hard bitten free market type can see that the population of our fair country is greatly served by our socialised medical system.

Jaz said...

My best answer is to read pages 22 and 23 of the Euro-Canadian report linked in the original post. Canada is better than the US in many, many ways. Canada is worse than many, if not most national health services in many, many ways. Canada is not the shining beacon of a national health service, and should not be used as the comparator when pondering the pros and cons of reforming the US multi-payor system.

Jaz said...

Interesting follow-up: Canada went to the UK and learned some stuff -

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