Recently at Reason.tv: A True Tale of Canadian Health Care—Why some patients need to go to the U.S. for surgery

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Many advocates of health-care reform are admirers of Canada's state-run, no-opt-out, single-payer system. Indeed, in 2003, President Barack Obama voiced enthusiasm for such a health-care program.

Proponents of Canadian-style health care should meet Cheryl Baxter, a Canadian citizen who waited years for hip-replacement surgery, only to be told that her operation would not happen any time soon. Instead of waiting, Baxter did what an increasing number of Canadians are doing: She flew to a clinic in the United States, paid out of pocket, and had a life-altering surgery in a matter of weeks rather than years.

Baxter's experience doesn't just throw damning light on Canadian health care. The sort of clinic she went to in Oklahoma suggests a different way of delivering health care in the United States, too: A simple fee-for-service model in which providers openly advertise their prices, service, and reputation. Rather than a frustrating, complicated mess of intermediaries such as employers and insurance companies, U.S. health-care reformers should think about bringing medicine into line with the same dynamics that help deliver great service at great prices throughout most other parts of the economy.

While Canadian health care is certainly cheaper than its U.S. counterpart (health care spending in Canada is about 10 percent of GDP versus 16 percent in the United States), it is not necessarily better or more equitable. As a recent National Bureau of Economic Research comparison concluded, "Americans are more likely to report that they are fully satisfied with the health services they have received and to rank the quality of care as excellent." Not only do Americans have far greater access to basic diagnostic tools ranging from mammograms to CT scans, the researchers found "the health-income gradient is actually more prominent in Canada than in the U.S." That is, wealthy Canadians receive far better care compared to low-income Canadians than rich Americans versus poor Americans.

"A True Tale of Canadian Health Care" was produced by Dan Hayes and Peter Suderman. Interviews were filmed by Alex Manning and the segment is hosted and scripted by Nick Gillespie. Approximately 5.11 minutes.

Reason.tv would like to thank the Independence Institute for arranging and underwriting travel to Canada for Suderman and Manning.

For downloadable versions of this video, go here.

For other Reason.tv videos on health care, go here.

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  1. That is, wealthy Canadians receive far better care compared to low-income Canadians than rich Americans versus poor Americans.

    Its unpossible. How can the wealthy possible have better access to services and goods that are in limited supply?

  2. I’m having a nagging feeling of deja vu.

  3. If you live in Alberta Province, you can get reimbursed for traveling abroad to get surgery.

    http://www.cbc.ca/health/story…..40614.html

    Medical tourism is an emerging industry.

    1. Good luck with that, Alberta.

  4. You can discuss Canandian heatlth care and/or Euro models all you want, but they will not fly in these here United States. What is it, ~ 30+ million people in Canada.

    Holy shit, I just had an epiphany. How about this: we divide the country up into European size subsets (call them states) and the citizens of these so-called “states” could become informed about the different models of health (medical) care and vote in “state” representatives to enact a certain model. This, without any interference from the federal government. Maybe a few could try a legitimate free market approach…..wait a second…..that’s just foolish. I’m new to commenting at Reason, you’ll have to forgive my ignorance. These so-called “states” would have to have gdp’s similar to European countries. That’ll never happen, huh. Scratch all that, we need federal policy to dominate education, drug policy, health care, etc.

    It’s just about worthless discussing health care without addressing every other issue. Politicians love to say we have to address health care because of the economic implications. It’s just the opposite. Until we restore some semblance of the intended role of the federal government as stipulated by the Constitution, particularly in commerce and monetary policy, really addressing health care is pointless.

    I’m curious what you “pundits” think about the Fair Tax. While it’s not perfect like our current system, it seems to me it sure as hell removes a lot of power from our overlords in Washington, makes things a lot more simple for business and individuals, and damn sure eliminates candidates running on the always popular feel-good “tax them, and not you” platform.

  5. Hank, I read he fair tax book twice through and it made some good sense to me.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, brotherben. I am all for the Fair Tax. However, I rarely can find anyone who has heard of it, much less get anyone to at least take a look at it. Figured Reasonoids would certainly have an opinion. I have spoken with a few people that have heard of it. In my experience: liberals – (typical) “too regressive,” conservatives: “sure.”

      The gist of my political philosophy is this: we should be moving away from more government, not towards it. What in the hell are we going to do when we have 500 million people, clone Obama? What’s the tax code going to look like, 130,000 pages? Add some more “lawmakers?” Any profile I fill out, if ever, I fill in “political” with “disgusted.”

  6. Health Care reform in America:
    1) Increase demand
    2) Reduce supply
    3) ???
    4) Profit!

    Uninsured Americans will see a slight improvement in their lives, for a time, before steps 2 and 3 are implemented. Then it’s just downhill from there.

    Almost time for me to tune out politics, and tune in other things, because this stuff is depressing.

  7. Just a note … the woman said the hip replacement was $18,000.

    That’s like 4 years of insurance premiums for a single person. So if you don’t need more than (the equivalent of) one hip replacement every four years, it’s cheaper to pay out of pocket.

    Also, a hip replacement is cheaper than a new car.

    It isn’t health *care* costs that are spiraling. It’s the insurnace rates – because hospitals load up the bill to the insurance company with unnecessary procedures and inflated prices.

  8. Actually, Hazel, insurers get heavily discounted prices.

    And, this may be shocking to you, but doctors and hospitals really don’t sit around doing all kinds of unnecessary shit just to pad bills. You sound like Obama accusing doctors of amputating feet and taking out tonsils just to make their car payments.

    1. Only if the insurance company has pre-negotiated rates with the hospital.

      They often don’t, but the state insurance mandates forced them to pay up anyway.

      That reduces their negotiating power.
      The hospitals know that they can’t actually refuse to pay for certain treatments.

      I’ve encountered plenty of people who were initially told that a certain treatment would cost X, and then had it reduced to Y when they said they were paying out of pocket for it, instead of using insurance.

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