Canada’s free health care has a high price tag

For many Canadians their 37-year-old universal health-care system is the symbol of their national identity. However, last June, a majority of Canada's Supreme Court struck down a Quebec law that banned private health insurance and held that the public system inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on many of its patients.

According to the Fraser Institute:

  • The average Canadian waits 17.9 weeks between the time a patient makes an appointment to see a general practitioner and when he then sees a specialist.
  • He will then be treated by a system that ranks 13th out of 22 advanced countries in access to MRI technology; 17th out of 21 in access to CT scanners and seventh out of 22 in access to radiation machines.
  • The safety valve in the system is that nearby U.S. hospitals can provide treatment for emergency cases and patients willing to pay.

    But Canada's public care doesn't save money, says columnist John H. Fund:
  • When adjusted for the age of its population, Canada vies with Iceland and Switzerland as the highest spender on health care among the 28 most developed nations with universal systems.
  • David Gratzer, a Toronto physician affiliated with the Manhattan Institute, calculates that a Canadian earning $35,000 a year pays a stunning $7,350 in health-care taxes.

    The Canadian Supreme Court's decision should lead to successful challenges to similar laws in other provinces. While last week the court stayed the impact of its ruling in Quebec for a year, a nationwide debate on why Canada is the only country other than Cuba and North Korea to ban private insurance and private care has finally broken out, says Fund.

    Source: John H. Fund, Canada's 'Free' Health Care, August 12, 2005.

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    For more on Health Care in Other Countries: Canada:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 23 August 2005
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