The Four Doctors
John Singer Sargent
I have been reading the following piece of drivel all over the Internet, and I felt it was time I had to respond:
"Thirty thousand Canadians are passing up free medical care at home to go to some other country where they have to pay for it. People don't do that without a reason. But Canadians are better off than people in some other countries with government-controlled medical care, because they have the United States right next door, in case their medical problems get too serious to rely on their own system. But where are Americans to turn if we become like Canada? Where are we to go when we need better medical treatment than Washington bureaucrats will let us have? Mexico? The Caribbean?" ... Thomas Sowell
According to his biography, Mr. Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution at Sanford University. One of Mr. Sowell's favorite quotations is:
"The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie." ... Joseph A. Schumpeter
Well, it would seem that Mr. Sowell is following Joseph Schumpeter's advice, because everything about his statement on Canadian health care is a lie. Thirty thousand Canadians are not passing up free medical care at home to go to some other country where they have to pay for it.
I appreciate that the health care debate in the United States is becoming emotional, to say the least. I have never seen such an issue divide a country. However, what I don't like to see is Canada's health care system being dragged into the debate. Canada has a population of 33,743,141 and a Human Development Index of 0.967 putting it third in the world behind Iceland and Norway. The United States has a population of 307,120,000 and its Human Develoment Index is 0.950, putting it at number 15 in the world, ranking behind Canada.
"So what?" ... you say. Well, plenty, that's what.
Canada has a health care system that works, and it has worked for over 50 years. In the United States, 47,000,000 Americans -- greater than the entire population of Canada -- have no form of medical insurance or coverage of any kind, and they have no hope of ever having any coverage. In the United States, people die because they cannot afford medical care. That does not happen in Canada. In the United States, 60% of all personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills. That does not happen in Canada.
In Canada, the doctor is god. If a doctor orders diagnostic tests, medication, surgery, treatment -- whatever -- the patient gets it. In Canada, the emphasis is on care, with the funding coming from the Provincial and Federal governments. In the United States, the emphasis is on the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and what they will or will not allow. The HMO is permitted to make medical decisions while controlling the financial aspect of providing care, and the HMO is often protected from malpractice lawsuits. In other words, the HMO tells the doctor what standard of care a patient can have. That would never happen in Canada.
The fact is, rather than 30,000 Canadians going to "other countries" for medical care, millions of Americans are coming to Canada through online pharmacies to buy prescription drugs for much lower prices than they pay to the pharmaceutical companies in the United States. Canada has $1 billion ($1,000,000,000) annual prescription-drug trade with Americans. The same medications cost up to 60 to 80% less here in Canada.
The United States of America spends more per capita (17%) on health care than Canada does (15%), and yet 16% of America's population has no medical coverage whatsoever and millions of others have inadequate coverage. This makes America's current system much more expensive than Canada's. In the U.S. underinsured or uninsured people wait until they are extremely ill before seeking medical help, and they end up going through hospital emergency rooms, which is a more expensive process than primary care services. What's wrong with this picture?
If I'm beginning to sound like a broken bell over this issue, it's because as a Canadian, I'm proud of our health care system. It's not perfect, but it's ours and it works. It may not work for the folks in the United States, they're in such a deep mess now. But I wish they would stop using our health care system as an example of "poor" health care. According to the World Health Organization, the life expectancy in Canada is longer than in the United States, the infant mortality rate in Canada is lower, and Canada is ahead of the United States in child well-being.
I know the debates will rage on, and Canada will continue to be used by some folks as an example of a poor health care system. Idiots...! They have no idea what they're talking about, and I wish they'd shut up already.