Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, June 17, 2005

Canadian Health Care: No More Universal Than U.S. Health Care

In a terrific piece in the National Post, Norma Kozhaya points out that U.S. Health Care for the poor and needy is just about the norm for Canada's universal health care [thanks to Jack for the pointer]. Everyone else gets something better.

The uninsured have at their disposal a safety net, namely the public hospital network: This in fact constitutes a sort of informal hospital insurance. Even the uninsured can obtain health care. The Congressional Budget Office writes that "many people without insurance have access to at least some sources of health care, either through public hospitals, community health centres, local health departments, or Department of Veterans Affairs facilities." OECD researchers have made a similar observation: "Local governments, in conjunction with states, play an important role in financing the so-called safety net providers (e.g., county hospitals) that serve the indigent."

These facts are illustrated by a letter last year from Susan W. Weathers, a doctor in Texas, to the Wall Street Journal. The Canadian system, she explained, "resembles the county hospital where I work. Our patients pay little or nothing. They wait three months for an elective MRI scan and a couple of months to get into a subspecialty clinic. Our cancer patients fare better than the Canadians, getting radiotherapy within one to three weeks. The difference is that our patients are said to have no insurance (a term used interchangeably with no health care) whereas Canadians have 'universal coverage.'"
She goes on to point out that gubmnt spending per capita on health care in the U.S. is greater than it is in Canada, and that total spending (because people can buy private insurance and private health care to top up the gubmnt funding) is much greater.

All told, the U.S. spends more on public health care than most large western countries. Public health care spending as a proportion of GDP is 6.6% in the U.S., ninth among the 30 OECD countries, and just after Canada's 6.7% of GDP. Moreover, per capita government spending is higher in the U.S. than in Canada - $2,364 compared to $2,048 at purchasing power parity, based on OECD data.
If these facts are correct, bring on more privatization, please!
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