Canadian Health Care System Myths

Probably the most talked about bill that passed during President Obama’s first term was the Affordable Care Act ( ACA for short, but commonly known as Obamacare.) There was a hugh push against it, and long discussions while the Supreme Court debated it.

Mitt Romney’s campaign was prepared to use the Court’s assumed position against it as a springboard for a Romney landslide. Repealing it was one of the many things Romney was going to do on his first day in office. The Representatives, including our Rep. Tom Reed, voted over 30 times against Obamacare.

Americans, including the President, were sitting on the edge of their seats when Court announced its decision that the law was Constitutional. Assuming it would be knocked down, Fox News and CNN incorrectly announced that the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare was UNconstitutional.

Needless to say, the polls showed that most of the people (7 out of 10 in some polls) had negative feelings about Obamacare. Those feelings have changed since the Supreme Court’s ruling. The exit polls of the November election shows that the public feelings about Obamacare is pretty evenly split. Now that it is the law of the land, many people are still fearful of how it will affect them.

I kept hearing, even from some Democratic friends, of problems the Canadian Health Case system, which is a Universal and Single Payer system. Realize that Obamacare is not Single Payer. I heard of the long waits Canadians patients suffered with. I heard that elderly Canadians were refused needed transplants. I heard that the doctors were leaving their home country to practice in the United States. You probably heard those myths, too. Myths–that’s right. Those statements are all myths.

AARP reported that the Center for Health Policy and Professional Research in Indianapolis identified the Top 5 Myths about the Canadian and pre-Obamacare American systems. They were:

Myth #1 Canadians are flocking to the US to get medical care.

Through surveys of Canadians, the U.S. Hospitals and ambulance care facilities near the Canadian Borders, they concluded yes, a small number of Canadians (90 out of 18,000) were treated at United States facilities. Of those 90 who were not treated in their home country, 20 actually planned to go over the border for treatment. The other 70 were already in the United States when they became ill.

Myth #2 Doctors in Canada are flocking to the United States to practice.

It is true that a majority of the physicians who leave Canada come to the United States. In the mid-1990’s it averaged 400-500 a year. Between 2003-2006 there were between 122 and 169 a year who left for the USA. That represented less than 0.5% of the Canadian doctors. By the way, beginning in 2004 more doctors were moving INTO Canada than moving out.

Myth #3: Canada rations health care; that’s why hip replacements and cataract surgeries happen faster in the United States.

Infamous Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin, a couple of years ago spoke to the other members of the house and said,

“I just hit 62, and I was just reading that in Canada [if] I got a bad hip I wouldn’t be able to get that hip replacement that [Rep. Dan Lungren] got, because I’m too old! I’m an old geezer now and it’s not worth a government bureaucrat to pay me to get my hip fixed.”

Besides thinking that at 62 makes you an old geezer, he is just wrong, and he should know it. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch researched his statement and found that in 2008 at least 63% of the hip replacements performed in Canada were 65 or older. More than 1,500 Canadian hip replacements were over 85!

Realizing that the misinformation on universal health care and single payer programs is believed by many, I keep coming back to the Adolf Hitler quote, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” I feel the ‘big lies’ have been told, and told often. Americans need to understand the facts.

Myth #4: Canada has long wait times because it is a single-payer system. and Myth #5: Canada rations health care; the United States doesn’t.

These two myths are related. The wait times in Canada are caused because the government has made a conscious decision to hold the prices down. A way to do that is by limiting the supply of elective procedures, which could cause wait times.

Canada “rations” the service by making people wait for some things. The US also ‘rations” services, we do it by high costs.

The AARP article has more detailed explanations of the Myths, as well as informative graphs and charts. You can reach the article at:

About pystew

Retired Teacher, political science geek, village trustee. I lean a little left, but like a good political discussion. My blog, the New NY 23rd (http://newny23rd) is about discussing the issues facing the people of our new congressional district. Let's hear all sides of the issues, not just what the candidates want us to hear.
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