Saturday, August 25, 2007

Canada's Health Care Sicko

Whenever people start talking about ways to make Canada's health care system better, the defenders of the status quo bring up one horror story after another from the US health care system. They make it sound like there are only two health care systems in the world, Canada's and the one in the US. They make the US system sound mean and uncaring, and Canada's is portrayed as the caring, compassionate system where everyone is cared for equally. The US system isn't perfect, but neither is ours. Anyway, no one in Canada is saying we should adopt the US system.

Our problem is the disconnect between who pays for health care in Canada (the taxpayer) and who receives health services (everyone). People end up thinking health care is free, but it is far from that. Health care costs each Canadian almost $4,000 per year, which is more that a lot of Americans pay for health insurance. We are not allowed to take control of our own health care. The result is health care rationing and long wait times for so-called free care. But the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that forcing people to suffer and die on waiting lists is a violation of the rights of Quebecers. Access to a waiting list is not access to health care.

What to do? There are examples out there that we can take ideas from.

Sweden, a country widely viewed as a bastion of socialist medicine, has privately managed health care facilities, private health care insurance and user fees. Sweden now spends less of its national income on health care than Canada and they've lowered their wait times. Other countries with user fees and private insurance, including France, Germany and New Zealand, have better medical outcomes than Canada does. The only countries that have a system similar to Canada are Cuba and North Korea.

What kind of caring, compassionate country lets patients suffer and die on waiting lists and make it illegal to look for alternatives in their own country? It's time to look at alternatives.

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