Until Medicare Was Introduced

Until Medicare was introduced, Canadian health care costs were growing as fast as those in the United States. But “the period of the most rapid escalation ended with the establishment of universal coverage” paid for from public funds. Even more startling is the fact that public spending on health care accounts for virtually the same proportion of each country’s total economy. Yet, Canada covers the whole population and the United States covers only the elderly, the very poor, the military, and some of the disabled.

With the government as the main purchaser of services, health care is not only cheaper for individual taxpayers. It is also cheaper for employers, especially for those employers facing unions strong enough to successfully demand full health care coverage. In the United States, Chrysler pays more for health care than it pays for steel. In Canada, Chrysler does not have to pay for basic hospital or medical costs and therefore its employee costs are lower. Workers’ compensation in Canada does not have to cover these basic costs either, and thus this protection too is cheaper for the Canadian employer.

With the single-payer scheme for many essential services, Canadians have a one-tier system. The rich and the poor go to the same hospitals and doctors. Neither receives a bill and the rich cannot buy quicker access, preferred status, or better facilities. What is covered by the public insurance system cannot be covered by a private insurer and doctors are not allowed to bill above the prescribed rate for services covered by the public insurance. Sharing facilities and services means that the entire population has a vested interest in maintaining the quality of care.

For more than a quarter century, Canada has been providing this comprehensive, accessible and high-quality care, without billing individuals for services or relating care to financial status. Equally important, it has done so more efficiently and at least as effectively as the competitive system serving an illness market in the United States. It is not surprising, then, that 96 per cent of Canadians prefer their system to the American way. It is somewhat more surprising that a majority of Americans also prefer the Canadian system to that in the United States. After all, health care services are very similar on both sides of the border.….. This blog will be continued next week featuring exerts from the book, “Universal Health Care”.

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Health Insurance Blogger

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