This is the blog post I know I shouldn't write. I have talked myself out of writing it, only to talk myself right back into writing it at least a dozen times over the past week. I know I stand the risk of hate mail, losing followers, and having people think and say bad things about me.
I do not want to make a political statement with what is to follow. I am not taking sides in the current health care debate South of 49. I am not saying that Americans should have what we have here in Canada, or that if you did have it the outcome would be the same. In other words, this post is in no way meant to give advice, take sides, or do anything else that could prove to be divisive. There already seems to be more than enough of that going around without me contributing to it.
What this post is meant to do is to clear up some common misconceptions about the Canadian health care system. As I have been reading this past week about the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Obamacare, over and over again I see the Canadian system brought up in articles, forums and social media. And let's just say that facts have been in short supply. So, instead of grinding my teeth and muttering to myself I thought I would try to do something more productive. If you have no interest in the Canadian health care system please forgive this rant, and come back in a few days when I return to normal (not that I have ever been normal, but you know what I mean). For those of you who are interested, please read on, keeping in mind that this is not a statement for or against Obamacare.
I want to start with a sample of what has made me so crazy this week. Here is a comment after an online article on the recent decision. "...socialized medicine increases the size of government and leads to socialism which makes people poor." Granted, that one didn't mention Canada, but since we have socialized medicine I figured it applied to us.
And there was this one. "I also feel terrible for the Canadians. Where are they supposed to go now when they need something done without having to wait two years for it?"
Or this. "There is horror story after horror story about lack of funding in the UK and Canada for enough medical treatment."
And there were all the anecdotal reports - the kind where someone knew someone who knew someone with a connection to Canada, followed by some medical horror story.
The per capita expenditure on health care in Canada is $3895 compared to $7290 in the US. 10% of Canada's GDP is spent on health care with 100% of the people covered. 17% of the US GDP is goes to health care, but 15% of the population has no coverage.
Perhaps you are thinking that the fact we spend less means we have worse outcomes. Not so. Both infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are lower in Canada than in the US, and the average life expectancy of a Canadian is two years longer than that of an American. (Imagine what it would be if we gave up our donuts and poutine.)
It is commonly believed that we pay higher taxes overall in order to support our medical system, but this is not true. The average after tax income in Canada is 82% of gross pay compared to 81.9% in the US.
Universal health care is often portrayed as being a bureaucratic nightmare. The reality is 31% of every health care dollar spent in the US goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, etc. The Canadian single-payer system has a 1% overhead.
The government does not determine who gets medical care, or what care they get. In Canada it is the physician who makes all medical decisions.
Canadian doctors are not employed by the government. Most physicians in this country are self-employed.
No patient needing urgent care is made to wait. I don't care how many anecdotal stories you have read, it just isn't so. We have a triage system, which means if you are in an emergency room with a headache you are going to have to wait longer than the person having a heart attack. Need moves you to the front of the line, not money.
The average wait for elective (meaning non-emergency) surgery is 4 weeks. The average wait to see a specialist is 4 weeks. The average wait for a diagnostic test such as an MRI or CAT scan is two weeks.
Over 90% of Canadians support our universal health care system. Which in itself should be enough to stop all the inaccurate stories. After all, if it was really as bad as it is so often portrayed in the US media it wouldn't have that kind of approval rating.
And just so you don't think I have come completely unhinged I will close on a lighter note. I cast on for this little project this week and can't seem to put it down. My knitting time has been totally focused between this and one other addictive project I cast on last week. Any guesses as to what it is going to be?