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The Canadian Healthcare System and Its Problems


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The United States government spent $783 billion in 2006 on Medicare and Medicaid. If we went to a universal healthcare in this country, it would probably go well over a trillion dollars. And taxes would certainly increase. American's want affordable healthcare or a universal healthcare system. This is going to be a huge debate going into the Presidential election. But, did you know that the U. S. free market system produces the most new drugs and techniques because the system provides incentives for innovation and efficiency? Did you know that under our current health system you can go to the doctor whenever you want, there is no waiting line? Well, that is not the case in Canada. Here are some criticisms of the healthcare system:

57% of Canadians reported waiting 4 weeks or more to see a specialist; 24% of Canadians waited 4 hours or more in the emergency room.

A March 2, 2004 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal stated, “Saskatchewan is under fire for having the longest waiting time in the country for a diagnostic MRI - a whopping 22 months. "

A February 28, 2006 article in The New York Times quoted Dr. Brian Day as saying, “This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years. "

Canada's shortage of medical practitioners causes problems. With 2.2 doctors per thousand population, Canada is well below the OECD average of 3.0, although its 10 nurses per thousand was slightly above the OECD average of 8.6. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organisation of thirty countries that accept the principles of representative democracy and free market economy.

Doctors in Canada make an average of $202,000 a year (2006, before expenses). Alberta has the highest average salary of around $230,000, while Quebec has the lowest average annual salary at $165,000, creating interprovincial competition for doctors and contributing to local shortages.

In 1991, the Ontario Medical Association agreed to become a province-wide closed shop, making the OMA union a monopoly. Critics argue that this measure has restricted the supply of doctors to guarantee its members’ incomes.

According to a 2007 article, the Canadian medical profession is suffering from a brain drain. The article states, “One in nine trained-in-Canada doctors is practicing medicine in the United States. If Canadian-educated doctors who were born in the U. S. are excluded, the number is one in 12. "

A February 28, 2006 article in The New York Times stated, “Accepting money from patients for operations they would otherwise receive free of charge in a public hospital is technically prohibited in this country, even in cases where patients would wait months or even years before receiving treatment. . . Canada remains the only industrialized country that outlaws privately financed purchases of core medical services. "

In 2006, a Canadian court threatened to shut down one private clinic because it was planning to start accepting private payments from patients. According to The New York Times, although privately funded clinics are illegal in Canada, many clinics are opening anyway, because patients don't like the long waiting lists in the government system.

In a 2007 interview on ABC News, Professor Regina Herzlinger of Harvard Business School said, “Many clinics all across Canada are illegal for-profit. . . They know they can't get the health care they need from the legal system, so they're complicit in creating an illegal system that'll give them what they need. "

Sounds like they still have a lot of work. If you live in Canada and read this article please let me know if anything has changed or has gotten better, I would love the feedback.

Kevin Colby


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