When former President Barrack Obama ran for office in 2008, he promised radical left-wing Americans a health care system “similar to Canada’s.” Ironically, around this time, one prominent Canadian health care expert was warning the world of the downfalls to her country’s single-payer system.
In 2009, Dr. Anne Doig, the then-incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association, made comments about the health care across our northern border that made headlines worldwide. Doig went public with a dire message back then — that the system was imploding, and the situation was much more grim than many Canadians were aware of.
“We know there must be change,” Doig said in an interview at the time. “We’re all running flat out, we’re all just trying to stay ahead of the immediate day-to-day demands.” She continued, “Canadians have to understand that the system that we have right now — if it keeps on going without change — is not sustainable.”
Nearly a decade later, the situation regarding Canada’s health care system does not seem to have improved, and Doig’s warning fell on deaf ears.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Canada spent approximately $228 billion on health care just two years ago. That’s over $6,000 for every Canadian resident. This places Canada on the high end of health care expense compared to other industrialized nations.
Another well-known downfall to Canada’s health care system are the wait times for services. In 2013, Canadians, on average, faced a nearly five month wait for medically necessary treatments after referrals by general practitioners. Astonishingly, this wait time is almost twice as long as it was two decades earlier when national wait times were first recorded.
In 2013, the average wait time for an MRI was over two months, while Canadians needing a CT scan waited for almost a month, which is unheard of in the United States. These long wait times can allow health issues that involve certain patients to grow, which may lead to deteriorating and irreversible harm.
As for quality, Canada’s health care fails once again. The single-payer system does not allow citizens to pay directly for their procedures themselves, and they are not allowed to opt out of the universal system to pay for their own private insurance.
These reasons alone should cause Americans who favor implementing a single payer system like Canada’s to reevaluate their beliefs. As long as our neighbors to the North continue to have high payments for their “free” health care, long wait lines and poor quality, Americans should not view their system as one to admire.