September 1, 2009

Longer-living Canadians defend health care system

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Canadians say bring it, we like our health care.

Bottom line: No one goes bankrupt over medical bills. No one is denied care.  No one loses their health care when they lose their job. Real, telling bottom line: Canadians live three years longer than Americans, according to the World Health Organization.

 Sure there are some problems. Some are calling for a co-payment system “to eliminate the hypochondriacs,” according to Charmaine Noronha of the Associated Press. Others complain about long waits for elective care, shortages of doctors in rural areas, and the growing costs of covering an aging population.  But overall? It’s much cheaper than the American system because the single payer aspect of it reduces administrative costs, the area where the U.S. system wastes so much money.

“We’ve heard talk in the U.S. that you may die here because of long wait times, you can’t choose the doctors or the care you want and that the government makes your health decisions for you, but none of that is really true,” said Dr. Michael M. Rachlis, a leading Canadian health policy analyst who has written three books about Canada’s system. “I think there’s a lot that the U.S. could learn from Canada.”

Canadians do pay higher taxes – the average family pays about 48 percent of its annual income in taxes – partly to fund the health care system. The average annual tax load in the U.S., combining federal, state and local taxes, is about 40 percent.

— Rita Hibbard

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