A Canadian CEO criticizes Obamacare and the Canadian Healthcare system

Over the weekend I went to dinner with some friends and among them was a conservative Canadian who was disappointed Obama won, so basically a Republicanadian.  As a business owner who works hard to grow his business into an international franchise and as a job creator (he used that term), he said he wanted someone who understands that the economy depends on making business such as his grow.  We talked debt, economy, socialism, among other topics and I countered his arguments with my “socialist views”. He even asked to see my communist card and I told him not to joke about it because under Obama he will soon get one too! But when it came to discussing Obama's healthcare law as it compares to the Canadian healthcare system, I was at a loss for arguments because I was not familiar with the Canadian system. 

He said he had a medical issue but the waiting time to see a doctor in Canada, which has “a socialist healthcare system”, was too long. Here in the US, he was seen and treated by a doctor immediately and paid for his treatment in cash.

Before writing this article I did a little online research. Wikipedia has some nice sections that discuss “criticisms” about “waiting times” and “Canadians visiting the US to receive health care” but at Daily Kos I got some firsthand opinions from Canadians who are not wealthy CEOs. Now I have some arguments for the next time someone criticizes the Canadian healthcare system:

  1. The Canadian system works extremely well 99% of the time, but for the 1%, it may not be enough.
  2. The views of a Canadian who expects immediate medical assistance and can afford to pay out-of-pocket cash for a medical procedure are very different to the views of a majority of Canadians.
  3. In the US, if you have a serious illness, you'll likely be bankrupt, but in Canada, if you have a serious illness, financially, you'll be exactly where you were when you got sick.
  4. You will have a hard time meeting a Canadian who would trade their system for the old “fee for service” US health care system. I just met an outlier.
  5. When pressed about what could be better about their system, Canadians will say something about sometimes waiting for non emergency procedures like hip replacement.
  6. When there's potential for a serious health issue, that person goes to the front of the line for health care in Canada.  People with cancer are treated immediately and extremely well.  Without any cost except for drugs – which are a fraction of the price they are here.  And receiving 2/3's their pay during their disability. 
  7. The Canadian system prioritizes cases and “watchful waiting" is the norm in many other countries, sometimes in cases where a US doctor would operate sooner, just for peace of mind, but at the risk of perhaps unnecessary surgery. 
  8. Physicians earn a lot more in the US, so it's not surprising that some Canadian trained physicians, who do their residency in the US, stay here. However, this does not happen as much as some claim it does.
  9. In the pre-Obama US, citizens with insurance, were at risk of dying in an ER because it was overwhelmed with people without insurance who used the ER as their medical doctor.
  10. A private employer in the US has to add private health insurance premiums to his or her cost of doing business. A Canadian employer gets to keep that cost and reinvest it or call it profit or use it to pay for his own personal private US medical treatment.
  11. System wise, the US is ranked roughly #37, behind Canada, Columbia, Ireland, Italy, and #1 the French system.
  12. If Canada’s system is not among the top ten, it is because both conservatives as well as centrists (called the Liberal party) have cut funding for it in the past 10 years. Yet, it is still much better than what we had in the US until now.
  13. Michael Douglas can afford the best the US system has to offer.  His cancer was missed by several doctors in the US, and eventually found when he visited a doctor in Montreal. His first hand experience led him to publicly praise the Canadian health care system.

But perhaps we should look at the #1 healthcare system in the world, the French system, and learn from it.

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3 comments to A Canadian CEO criticizes Obamacare and the Canadian Healthcare system

  • BC

    I think arguments can be made for and against the Canadian system.  Same for UK.
    Whatever one's opinion we are in the US and it's our system that we need to make work.  My gut is ACA collapses under it's own weight financially and you're gonna have a lot of pissed off people in 2014 when they have insurance, but can't access doctors because there aren't enough of them.
    I think this article at THCB makes some very good points as to ACA challenges given it's structure and aggressive timeline.
    As I've said in the past,  I want access to HC for all, but wishing it and achieving it are two very different things.  What is coming in 2014 and out  is a trainwreck of massive proportion.

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    • itaest

      Interesting. I read it and it is well written, but again, it is all negative. Henny Penny – the sky is falling. And although THCB has liberal and conservative bloggers, this particlaur one is a rightwinger:

      John C. Goodman, PhD, is president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He is also the Kellye Wright Fellow in health care. His Health Policy Blog is considered among the top conservative health care blogs

      Every opinion is tainted by the party affiliation of the blogger, which means it is not possible to know what is actually the truth unless someone runs a fact checker on it.

      As a disclaimer, I need to say that I am not enamored with Obamacare. I would have prefered universal healthcare as implemented in Germany, or simply a medicare for all solution. But Obamacare is a good start and it will undergo improvements over time as has happened with other laws. I'm not worried. I was worried about the status quo. About living in a country where uninsured people with cancer cannot afford to get treatment or have to go bankrupt to get it.

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  • BC

    I agree with you on the HC issue and ACA is a start, but the modifications needed are huge.  I think THCB has a lot of good articles and from different points of view.
    Don't think the author is overly negative rather making accurate observations that ACA needs a ton of work.  So we'll see what happens.
    His most salient point was the high cost of HC in the US that keeps rising.  When I start to see this addressed then I will feel more confident about an amended ACA working.

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