Taking Issue With Canadian Health Care Opponents

The following is a rebuttal of an opinion piece that ran in the February, 2005 issue of The Healthcare News, titled “Canadian Health Care: Higher Costs, Shorter Lives,” by Cheryl Hymes, an analyst for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) in Washington.


The gist of the editorial is in the title: Higher Costs, Shorter Lives.

EFF is an ultra-conservative group working to limit government by privatization, not only in health care, but in education as well. Hymes quotes a report about Canadian health care written by the Fraser Institute in Canada, an organization that focuses on trying to privatize the Canadian national health care system, which is currently funded and administered by the government.

In the EFF editorial, Hymes fails to compare Canada’s single payer health care system with statistics from America’s privatized system of multiple insurances. Higher costs? We pay over $6,000 per person in Massachusetts for health care, more than any other country in the world. By contrast, Canada pays approximately $3,000 per person.

Shorter lives?

The World Health Organization reported that in 2003, Canadians had a life expectancy at birth of 79.8 years, versus 77.3 years in the United States. Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, from the School of Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle, reports, “There is not a single measure in which the U.S. excels in the health arena. We spend half of the world’s health care bill and we are less healthy than all the other rich countries.”

So much for access to health care and keeping down health care costs in a privatized system.

There is a bill in the state legislature called The Massachusetts Health Care Trust, which would provide universal health care for everyone in the state. This health plan would be funded and administered by the state government, and would provide an extensive benefit package, including medical and dental care, mental health care, prescription drugs, and nursing home coverage. The savings realized by eliminating the current administrative costs of 40{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in our privatized system, and replacing it with a single payer system with a 1.3{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} administrative cost, as in Canada, would allow for universal coverage with a complete benefit package, at the price we pay now for our inadequate patchwork system.

Canada’s health care system is not perfect, but Canada provides for universal access and better health care outcomes at half the cost of America’s privatized insurance system. We need to eliminate the 40{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of our health care dollars that go toward the shareholder profits and exorbitant CEO salaries of a privatized system, and spend our money on a universal health care system that would provide comprehensive, high quality care for everyone.

We have the best doctors, hospitals and technology. Now is the time to support legislation for the Massachusetts Health Care Trust. For more information, go towww.masscare.org.

Susanne L. King, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, journalist, and health-care reform activist. She resides in Lenox, Mass.