Not to through cold water on an obviously ideological debate, but Walter Kronkite hosted a special on PBS, comparing Canadian and American health care; it was instructive in the relative benefits and deficiencies of each.
What Puffington is suggesting, and what Canada has, is socialized insurance. Everyone is insured, no matter what the circumstances (with a few small exceptions). You can always go to the doctor, though prescription drugs are only partially covered, if at all, so you might not be able to afford the treatment. This isn’t very common, given no-name brand drugs and the awareness of doctors that patients need to be able to actually get the drugs; recipients of social benefits have prescription drug plans.
Canada has one of lowest rates of infant mortality in the world because all pregnant women, regardless of their economic ability, receive good general health care throughout their pregnancy, catching problems before they become serious and ensuring that the nine months go smoothly, in general. America has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the first world because pregnant women on Medicaid or without a policy don’t get the usual and necessary general healthcare they need. Most American doctors don’t accept Medicaid (they’re not required to) because it’s often late in payment and pays only a portion of the bill.
America has the best doctors in the world because hospitals can afford to pay them. American private hospitals have lots of the best equipment available, and diagnostic tests like MRIs and catscans are routine and easy. In Canada, you’re scheduled for expensive/equipment dependent tests because the facilities are limited by the government to reduce costs. Doctors in Canada are generally good, but few doctors of really exceptional ability stay because the money is better down south.
A corrolary[sp?] of the top quality facilities and doctors in private American hospitals is that procedures and examinations are readily available: there’s always an operating open for an expensive procedure. In Canada, elective surgery is scheduled months or years in advance; a triple bypass is considered elective if it’s not urgently needed, and it’s possible to wait a long time for such an operation. However, emergency/urgently needed surgery is always done promptly; I don’t recall hordes of people dying on waiting lists. Many Canadians with the money to do so will come to the U.S. for surgery, rather than wait.
American public hospitals are generally in poorer condition than Canadian ones, as they’re in the same boat as Medicaid: underfunded, and a medical solution really only for the poor or those with halfassed HMO health plans.
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The difference is fairly obvious to me: an American with money is better off in the U.S., while an American without money is better off in Canada. In the U.S., medicine of the highest quality in the world is practiced for those who can pay for it, at the cost of depriving the lower economic levels of adequate general health care. Ironically, the U.S. government spends more on public health care than the Canadian government: 11% of GDP (at the time the documentary was produced), vs. 9% in Canada. I’m not certain how those figures have changed since then.
There’s been a running battle in Canada for as long I can remember over the creation of a private medical industry for those who can pay. The fear is that a two-tier American system will develop, where private medicine excels at the expense of public medicine. Given the government’s support of public medicine, it hasn’t happened yet, and is unlikely to anytime soon.
Personally, I’ll take the Canadian system.
Never attribute to an -ism anything more easily explained by common, human stupidity.