MONTREAL, Oct. 17, 2019 /PRNewswire/ - With so-called "Medicare for All" being a key issue in the 2020 US election, voters might take a hard look at the Canadian health system often cited as a model. Contrary to widespread misconception, Canadians actually suffer the same out-of-pocket burdens as Americans, while also enduring years-long waiting lists, outdated equipment, and staff shortages, as shown in a paper published today by the MEI, an independent Canadian think tank.
"Canadian health care is cheaper, yes, but that's because Canada's provincial governments cut corners wherever they can." says Peter St. Onge, author of the publication and Senior Economist at the MEI. "The feel-good promises of a Canadian-style health care system are built on a myth."
Waiting times are a problem that keeps getting worse. The average waiting time between referral from a general practitioner and treatment by a specialist is 19.8 weeks, in addition to the original wait to see the family doctor in the first place. Canadian emergency rooms are packed, too—so packed that many Canadians just give up and go home. Of Canadian ER visitors who are seen, 29% report wait times of over four hours, three times the US level.
Beyond rationing care using waiting lists, the other key to Canada's cheaper care is underinvesting in equipment and staff. For example, Canada has only one-fourth as many MRIs per capita as the US. As a result, Canadian MRI waits average almost 11 weeks, adding months of diagnostic delays on top of the months of treatment delays.
"Not surprisingly, many Canadians turn in desperation to US health care, the very system so-called 'Medicare for All' proposes to eliminate," says Peter St. Onge. In 2017 alone, Canadians made 217,500 trips to other countries for health care, paying out-of-pocket to skip the waiting.
A key element of most "Medicare for All" schemes is eliminating private insurance. Even Sweden and Denmark, the very poster boy countries for many, are now expanding the role of private insurers, with more than 40% of Danes now carrying private health insurance. Canada, on the other hand, is stuck with an antiquated government-enforced monopoly that curtails individual liberties and choice. Unfortunately, some 2020 candidates are aiming precisely to copy what is essentially one of the worst systems in the industrialized world.
"Sound proposals exist for reforming American health care, including pricing transparency, incentives for patients to shop around, or getting rid of anti-competitive 'CON' laws," argues Peter St. Onge. "But Canada's top-down, government-run model is one of the worst possible options. Copying an already failing system rife with unintended consequences and suffering patients is quite simply the wrong prescription."
The Economic Note entitled "So-called 'Medicare for All': Waiting Lists, Outdated Equipment, Staff Shortages" was prepared by Peter St. Onge, Senior Economist at the MEI.
The MEI is an independent public policy think tank located in Montreal, Canada. Through its publications and media appearances, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies by proposing reforms based on market principles and entrepreneurship.
SOURCE Montreal Economic Institute