Friday, May 07, 2004

Canada's Wretched Health Care

Canadians are prone to brag about their universal health care system that ensures access to all Canadians regardless of income. And in large part, we do this as a slight to our southern neighbors who we like to chastize for their mean-spirited capitalist approach to medical care.

But before Canadians get too uppity, they may want to look at a recent report from the Fraser Institute comparing Canada, not to the US, but to other countries that provide universal health care. The results show that Canada is one of the worst providers of health care among OECD countries. The study looked at twelve benchmarks and found that the Canadian system delivers lower quality but at a higher cost.

Just as importantly, the study notes that many of the these countries, including "socialist" Sweden, allow for some form of private insurance, along with charging user fees. Only Canada seems determined to hold fast to its moribund government-run system while refusing to accept even the most basic reforms.

Here again we find ourselves in the realm of "Canadian values." Canadians have become so used to hearing the Liberal government in Ottawa tell us that universal health care is a Canadian value that we are unable to think reasonably about the issue. And of course, the Liberals use the spectre of a two-tiered, user-pay system as one of their primary means of scaring voters away from the Conservative Party. Rather than deal with the problem of declining health care, the Liberals prefer to leverage the issue in order to demonize the Conservatives, and most notably the province of Alberta which often leads the charge to reform health care along a more privatized model.

With a federal election coming soon, look for more scare tactics on this issue. Health care, like so many "Canadian values" is little more than a manifestation of Canadian immaturity, especially when we engage in constant comparisons between ourselves and the United States. Sadly enough, it's a state of immaturity the Liberals promote in order to win elections. But then it seems to work for them so maybe the Liberals are onto something after all.

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