Popular media tells me that the Canadian healthcare system is better than the United States Healthcare system.

But I’m skeptical. In fact, Frank Underwood best describes my reaction every time I’m confronted with this debate.

Okay, maybe I’m biased.

My free market idealism makes me lean away from anything with the word “socialized” attached to it. Let’s to look at the cold hard numbers but first let’s confront a misconception that I fell victim to.

Canadian healthcare is not “socialized healthcare.”

Canadian healthcare is publicly funded private healthcare. Medical professionals in the Canada do not work for the Canadian government. They are private organizations. Private hospitals and private doctor’s offices are required to operate under a fixed budget and to abide by accessibility guarantees in order to receive public funding (i.e. compensation for services rendered).

Okay, now the numbers:

30 million Americans are uninsured. 24% of the U.S. population are underinsured and live with catastrophic health insurance that barely covers their medical needs and leaves them unprepared to pay for major medical expenses.

Everyone in Canada is insured under Canada’s single payer system.

The average Canadian (or his insurance company) spends $917 annually for healthcare, including dental, eye care, and drugs. In the U.S., this sum is $3,372.

The United States spent $6,714 on healthcare per person in 2006. Canada spent $3,678 per person the same year.

Medical professional are paid more in the U.S. than in Canada. In fact, the average income for physicians in the U.S. was nearly twice that for physicians in Canada.

Canada has fewer doctors per patient than the U.S. does. There were 2.4 doctors per 1,000 people in the U.S.. In Canada, there are 2.2.

The US Government financed 46% of all healthcare provided in the country in 2006. Canada financed 70% the same year.

What about wait times?

A report published by Health Canada in 2008 included statistics on self-reported wait times for diagnostic services. The median wait time to see a special physician in Canada is a little over four weeks. A 2009 study found that on average the wait in the United States to see a medical specialist is just under three weeks.

33% of Canadians and 8% of Americans reported a wait time of more than 4 month for an elective surgery.

27% of Canadians reported that waiting times were their biggest complaint about their health system, versus only 3% of Americans. Canadians have reported that they waited an average of 18.3 weeks between seeing a general practitioner and getting surgery or treatment.

23% of Canadians and 30% of Americans report not being able to make an emergency physician appointment for the same day. 36% of Canadians and 23% of Americans reported waiting more than six days.

. . . as a result of longer wait times to see general practitioners and specialists, Canadians who can’t get in to see a doctor resort to visiting the emergency room. This phenomena is causing a much higher percentage of Canadians than Americans to visit the emergency room. In fact, Canadians face the longest emergency room waits in the developed world.

42% of Canadians reported waited 2 hours or more in the emergency room, versus 29% in the U.S.; 10% of Canadians seeking emergency care in Canada will wait eight or more hours for care at an emergency room.

21% of Canadian hospital administrators, but less than 1% of American administrators, report that it would take over three weeks to do a biopsy for possible breast cancer on a 50-year-old woman; 50% of Canadian administrators versus none of their American counterparts reported that it would take over six months for a 65-year-old to undergo a routine hip replacement surgery. However, in this study, U.S. administrators were the most negative about their country’s system.

What about the quality of care?

A World Health Organization (WHO) study rated the U.S. quality of service for individuals receiving treatment as 1st in the world and rated Canada 7th in the world.

In the same study, the WHO rated Canada higher than the U.S. in “overall health service performance.” In the overall health service performance Canada rated 30th and the U.S. rated 37th amount 191 nations.

Cancer mortality rates in both countries are nearly identical.

Americans are nearly twice as likely to get a CT scan during an emergency room visit than their counterparts in Canada. An abundance of caution (and arguably unnecessary procedures) is typical in the U.S. because U.S. doctors fear getting sued for malpractice.

The public healthcare system in Canada does not cover dental care, eye care, prescription drugs, or the services of psychiatrists or psychotherapists. Many Canadian’s purchase additional private health insurance for these benefits.

Okay . . . We’re more informed, and just as confused as we were before.

Canada appears to be an efficient healthcare system, spending a fraction of what the American system spends per year. Wait times are longer in Canada, but the level of care does not appear to be compromised. This is especially true for more affluent in both countries. At the lower side of the economic spectrum, it appears that the less well off are crowding into emergency rooms in both countries. The major difference being that an individuals in Canada won’t be crushed by the costs of an emergency room visit.

Canada, you’ve made me a belieber.. I mean believer.


Hi, I'm Greg - Millennial, Engineer, JD, former circus performer, and the person responsible for The Millennial Post and PatentDirection.com.