Why do Republicans lie about Canadian health care?

If the only way we compared the two systems – U.S. versus Canada – was with statistics, there is a clear victor. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to dispute the fact that Canada spends less money on health care to get better outcomes.

Yet, the debate rages on. Indeed, it has reached a fever pitch since President Barack Obama took office, with Americans either dreading or hoping for the dawn of a single-payer health care system. Opponents of such a system cite Canada as the best example of what not to do, while proponents laud that very same Canadian system as the answer to all of America’s health care problems…

As America comes to grips with the reality that changes are desperately needed within its health care infrastructure, it might prove useful to first debunk some myths about the Canadian system.

Myth: Taxes in Canada are extremely high, mostly because of national health care.

In actuality, taxes are nearly equal on both sides of the border. Overall, Canada’s taxes are slightly higher than those in the U.S. However, Canadians are afforded many benefits for their tax dollars, even beyond health care (e.g., tax credits, family allowance, cheaper higher education), so the end result is a wash. At the end of the day, the average after-tax income of Canadian workers is equal to about 82 percent of their gross pay. In the U.S., that average is 81.9 percent.

Myth: Canada’s health care system is a cumbersome bureaucracy.

The U.S. has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care in the U.S. goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, profits, etc. The provincial single-payer system in Canada operates with just a 1 percent overhead. Think about it. It is not necessary to spend a huge amount of money to decide who gets care and who doesn’t when everybody is covered.

Not so incidentally, single-payer systems run by the U.S. government can approach Canadian efficiency. Medicare and Social Security run at less than 3% overhead.

Myth: The Canadian system is significantly more expensive than that of the U.S.Ten percent of Canada’s GDP is spent on health care for 100 percent of the population. The U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP but 15 percent of its population has no coverage whatsoever and millions of others have inadequate coverage. In essence, the U.S. system is considerably more expensive than Canada’s. Part of the reason for this is uninsured and underinsured people in the U.S. still get sick and eventually seek care. People who cannot afford care wait until advanced stages of an illness to see a doctor and then do so through emergency rooms, which cost considerably more than primary care services.

What the American taxpayer may not realize is that such care costs about $45 billion per year, and someone has to pay it. This is why insurance premiums increase every year for insured patients while co-pays and deductibles also rise rapidly.

Myth: Canada’s government decides who gets health care and when they get it. While HMOs and other private medical insurers in the U.S. do indeed make such decisions, the only people in Canada to do so are physicians. In Canada, the government has absolutely no say in who gets care or how they get it. Medical decisions are left entirely up to doctors, as they should be.

RTFA. It continues on to deal with a number of lies that are fundamental to the emotional well-being of Americans who feel their political lives must be dedicated to the advancement of corporate wealth and power.

Thanks, Cinaedh

48 thoughts on “Why do Republicans lie about Canadian health care?

  1. Lmack49 says:

    Left wing BS. “difficult to dispute the fact that Canada spends less money on health care to get better outcomes” Not so at all just because you say so. Long waits in Canada for essential care such as open heart surgery, denied care, no chemo for breast cancer patients, and the list goes on and on. Quit telling lies and stick to the facts. Canadians come across the border to the US for essential care that would be delayed or denied in Canada.

    If what you say is true about relative cost between the US and Canada, (and I doubt you have any facts) then it is because care is denied to “critical” patients such as breast cancer patients or elderly. That is exactly what Obamacare will do for us. Long lines, denied care, and poor quality.

    Another way to cut medical cost is to reduce the pay to care givers including doctors. My own son decided not to pursue medical education because the future was bleak considering socialization of medicine. There are many like him. Socialized medicine will lead to a shortage of doctors as it has in Europe and Canada. They have come to the US where a free system still exist.

    Tort reform will do a lot to reduce the cost of medical care. It will certainly be included in any state run system, or there will be not doctors. If the doctors can’t make enough to pay the insurance premiums then they will go out of business.

    “Myth: Canada’s health care system is a cumbersome bureaucracy.” and “The U.S. has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world.” This shows you total lack of understanding of the business world. Overhead cost are associated with all business activities. Do not expect it to be less with a government run system.

    For your information the US Government is already in the health car business. Consider the colossal success of the Veterans Administration or Medicare and Medicaid. Care is routinely denied by all these agencies and the denial normally comes from a non-physician bureaucrat. Because medical fees are prescribed to private physicians, many have decided not to participate in government run medicine.

    No lies from the opponents of socialized medicine, but plenty of lies in your article. Next time, try to stick to the truth.

    • Sure says:

      Left wing BS? No. All true. Critical surgery in Canada gets no waiting, nobody is denied care. There is not a lie in this article. Have you ever even been to Canada? Live here for a while, otherwise just stop talking, you have no idea what you are talking about.

      • Laura says:

        The question for you “Sure” is Have YOU ever lived in Canada and needed care? My daughter lived there for years and when my 3 month old grandson got very sick with a RESPIRATORY problem (I think that falls under the category of critical or dangerous) they had to wait TWO MONTHS to be seen by a specialist! This was a tiny baby who was so sick! So much for good care in Canada!

        • newrepublican says:

          Well, let’s assume you’re not some Republican liar – like those they hire for commercials opposing improved health care. We’re now 3 or 4 degrees of separation removed from your “fact”.

          What questions come to mind? How is your grand-daughter, btw? What did the illness turn out to be?

          Was there any law in the way that prevented them from seeing someone in private practice and spending their own money above and beyond their existing insurance? As we often have to do in the U.S..

    • god says:

      Well, at least Eid got one answer from the Friday night at the American Legion bar-crowd.

      Except that lmack49 entirely missed that the source for this article was an old-fashioned Western state conservative newspaper. One that never moved over into the corporate kiss-ass role of today’s Republican Party.

      Stick to the truth? Dude, you wouldn’t recognize the truth if you voted for it. Somehow, I doubt if you ever did.

    • Sorceror says:

      “For your information the US Government is already in the health carE business. Consider the colossal success of the Veterans Administration or Medicare and Medicaid. Care is routinely denied by all these agencies and the denial normally comes from a non-physician bureaucrat.”

      So … your argument is that there are so many denied medical services in Canada that the relatively low number of bureaucrat-denied services in USA is a good thing? How about base this aspect on more successful health-care systems offered in other countries (such as Canada or Australia) and remove the power of bureaucrats to make this type of decision?

    • Wolter says:

      My mother had breast cancer, underwent surgery, and had a year of chemo.
      The surgery happened within a month of being diagnosed (it was not at a dangerous stage, or else she would have been on the table within a couple of days).

      This is in British Columbia. Cost to her: $0.

      Also, when it comes to cancer, or even the threat of cancer, you get an MRI scan within an hour of the doctor saying so. We don’t fuck around with peoples’ health.

    • sarah says:

      I am Canadian. I have never waited for any procedure and don’t know anyone who has (including my father who had triple by-pass surgery). You have no idea what you are talking about. I am a conservative but would NEVER want a U.S. style system.

    • Corrado Conti says:

      I have been married to a Canadian woman for 20 years. Her entire family lives in Canada.
      After watching some recent alarmist commercial about the Canadian health care system I figured I’d take advantage of my VOIP phone free calls to canada and ask them how they like their system.

      To the last person they love their health care, no one had ever waited excessively or denied care and no one would make the change to a US type private system.

      Here is the US, with top shelf insurance, I can’t count the times that I or my wife were denied medications, disallowed specialist visits and so forth.
      My wife is currently on COBRA and her premium was about $550 (for herself). When the Obama admin. passed the COBRA bill to help unemployed people her premium skyrocketed to $900 a month, effectively offsetting the saving.

      Left wing BS? KMA

    • A Canadian says:

      This is one of the stupidest posts yet. First off, in Canada, we don’t deny chemo for breast cancer (I’m getting it now!), and the lines are only long for non-life threatening surgeries (and only a *tad* longer than that of the US in that case).

      More importantly, you’re missing an mind-numbingly obvious fault in free-market medicare: PROFIT is just another expense that gets factored into health care costs. By and large, Canadian and other *cough* “socialist” countries’ healthcare systems involve an absence of the profit motive, and thus the overall expense is lower.
      Why not do some research about statistics related to life-expectency, cancer rates, AIDs rates, infant mortality, and obesity. You’ll see that these *cough* “socialist” countries beat the US across the board.

    • Anthony says:

      Actually Canada does have a better system then the US. Americans cross the border to get cheap medicine, not the other way. Actually France, which was voted number one health care in the world for ten years, by the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. Has more doctors per 1,000 people than the US. French doctors make about 50 percent less then US doctors, however the government pays for their medical school, and the malpractice insurance is a lot less. The only thing you stated that was correct is that we do need tort reform for doctors. Single payer insurance does work compared to the US system. The US system is ranked 37 in the world, however we spend 2-3 times more on healthcare than any other country. If that is your idea of success, you have been watching fox news for too long. A for profit health care system does not work unless your a greedy insurance company or Pharmaceutical company. Your son should be a doctor to help the sick not to become rich. If you son wants to be rich become a plastic surgeon in Beverly hills, I guarantee he will be rich beyond his wildest dreams. I know plenty of doctors, not one of them is hurting for money. If I could do it again, I would go into the medical field.

  2. jo says:

    Why do you call every one who kis agrees with you.
    Becasue you are a idoit. Stop repeatng the radio.
    What have the past administration done reallly well but say deregulate everything. Why don’t we deregulate the police, firemen, speed limit, utilities, fda etc. It will all just go to hell just like health care has.

    Bottom line Is if we pay the most why are we not getting the best health care and why are we not living the longest.

    Almost every developed country has a national health care but us and most of them rank higher than us in lifespan.

  3. Bill Warden says:

    I’ll take government controlling my health care ANYTIME over having an insurance company control it. If the govt messes up, I at least have a hope of doing something about it (i.e., voting). When insurance companies (which I can only afford through my job and don’t really have any meaningful say in) mess up, I can’t do a thing, they make the rules, decide what they’ll cover and have no motivation whatsoever to handle things quickly or efficiently. In fact, they’re motivated to be just the opposite, since people will often just give up rather than continue fighting and dealing with endless phonecalls and waiting for replies.

    And, yes I do know something about the Canadian system. My daughter lives there and I visit frequently. I’ve yet to meet a Canadian who says he or she wishes they were under the US system… not a single one.

    • L.Wayman says:

      I waited 2 months for two knee replacements in a British Columbia hospital…fantastic doctors and staff…out in three days. My medical bill for that year was $ 684 (can)..I am a senior….Don’t listen to that bullshit from Uncle Sam’s country.

  4. Eric Scott says:

    If you have been to Canada for any period of time, it is easy to recognize that Canadians are far healthier and are of far more stable mind than their southern neighbors.

    The US healthcare system is obviously broken. It needs to be fixed immediately. Those who believe otherwise are to be pitied, taught, and asked politely to get out of the way.

    My question? What can each of us do independently to wake up those that are in the deep slumber of the Dark Ages Bush thrust them into?

    • David says:

      I know Bush is an easy target of the left – but try to be grown up in your discourse.

      Bush had nothing to do with the current problem in the US healthcare engine. It’s been broken since before the Clinton Administration.

      The current fixes for the US Healthcare system are all crap. Especially given the tendency for the politicians toward bureaucracy. It’ll be a while before we find something better than the current system that will actually *work* in the US.

  5. KJ says:

    It’s interesting that people cite the Canadian gov’t sending Canadians to the US in emergencies as a criticism… it happens in the US as well, but it’s Americans going to Mexico for surgery because they can’t afford it in the US. This must be an indicator of how successful US health care is I guess…

    “Nearly a million Californians, perhaps hundreds of thousands more, cross the border to Mexico every year because they cannot afford the rising cost of health care in the United States, according to UCLA researchers.”


  6. David says:

    Actually – the comparison is not really valid here. Because the mention of Medicare causes the breakdown in the argument. The Canadian healthcare system is FAR superior to Medicare. Medicare is a nightmare of bad coverage, doctors who don’t care (because they don’t get paid), and it IS a bureaucracy. In Medicare – the reason there’s such low overhead is you just don’t get covered for anything. And now the US Government wants to push for everyone to be on Medicare? I’d rather go back to blood-letting and leeches.

    In order of quality (and I’m a conservative US citizen who’s used or worked with all three) the order of efficacy of care is:

    – Canadian (problems in more urbanized areas vs rural tho – longer waits, etc – sorry guys – live with the criticism).
    – US Private Insurance institutions (close second)
    – Medicare (DISTANT THIRD – and throwing more money at it won’t ‘make it better’).

    • moss says:

      I’d say you’re thoroughly off-base on Medicare. Might have considered you halfway correct if we were still stuck with half-measures – privately purchased – like most of the Medigaps; but, the addition of Medicare Advantage has made a big difference.

      I scrape by on my SSA – but, Medicare Advantage only costs me an additional $25/month including drug coverage. The most I’ve paid for a copay – seeing a specialist – is $15. My share of a month’s prescription for Altace is $5 at Walgreen.

      If Universal coverage for non-senior Americans comes up to Medicare standards, then, we’re off to a better start than the crap that’s generally available privately.

      • David says:

        “I’d say you’re thoroughly off-base on Medicare.”

        I’d say you’re wrong. I have family on it. I wrote software for medical billing. I’ve dealt with Medicare at levels you’d never begin to see.

        I’d rather go to bloodletting and leeches.

        • moss says:

          At least you’re consistently wrong, David.

          I started selling medical practice management software in 1986, Noob.

          As for bloodletting and leeches, you already have a party just kicked out of office that believed the same.

          • David says:

            Really? Your crap was probably some of the stuff I replaced, then. Thanks!

            And what party are you referring to? It’s not mine…

          • moss says:

            Reads more like your specialty was providing straightlines. Har!

            There is a significant change in MPM software since the early days. We never got started in any market by selling to physicians who cared first of all for the Hippocratic Oath. It always was the greediest types – who wanted to get to that trophy house, trophy country club, the geedus for the greatest.

            The types who invested first and foremost in insurance companies they really worked for probably still are your best clients. Though, over the years – it was a pleasure to see a growing number of young MD’s come down the road with the sort of ideals and ideology that prized systems which allowed for efficiency and communications as higher priorities than, say, accumulating POP’s in related fields to round out their marketing portfolio.

            Sorry, David – I’m happier with physicians like those folks I knew in public health who tried to design HMO’s to satisfy the needs of the Industrial unions who supported their early founding. But, then, they’re not the folks opposing choice, medical insurance or otherwise.

          • moss says:

            Come to think of it, Obama’s plans for digitizing medical records probably scares the hell out of the marketing types you work for, David. No wonder you’re uptight about the topic.

          • David says:

            Hey old-timer.. apparently you think we’re on different sides here. Not entirely the case.

            Let me spell this out for you. I’ll use small words as much as possible.

            – Canada overall seems to have built a decent healthcare system.

            – Medicare sucks compared to the current private US medical groups. Yea you think otherwise – I don’t care. My private insurance coverage is far better than Medicare and I wouldn’t trade it.

            – I don’t care about the “marketing types” because I left the medical software industry years ago – I got fed up with meeting so many doctors who were more worried about the bottom line instead of taking care of patients. It was… sad… to see.

            While I think we need to focus on taking better care of our citizens I just want someone to explain how it’ll be paid for. Our personal debt burden is already insane with no signs of improving. Given how broken our government is, it’s unlikely we can trust them to make anything decent for medical care. Yes yes I know.. you think I’m wrong.. I’d use that “agree to disagree” nonsense but since I’ve seen both sides as they exist today – I know you’re wrong.

    • Corrado Conti says:

      I have been on medicare with supplemental insurance for 4 years now. From my standpoint the care I get is equal or better than what I got when I was employed and paying close to $750 a month in premium (family).
      My medicare costs me about $80 a month.

      A private health insurance co. will spend between 10 and 30% on administrative costs. Medicare, according to a libertarian radio host on KGO I heard last night, not the American Socialist Party, spends 3%.
      While there is controversy surrounding how these figures are arrived to, it seems clear to me that a single payer system would need one bureaucracy while the myriad of insurance companies all create redundant systems to handle the same issues. Ineffective at best.

      Plus, Medicare takes care of the elderly and sick while private co. do their best to pick the healthy. How fair is a comparison between the two? Yet Medicare still comes out on top in my experience and that of many others I know.

      Bottom line, the cost pro capita for health insurance is higher here than almost anywhere else yet many are uninsured. That is a situation that cannot stand. Period

  7. moss says:

    David, go back and read my first Comment. Yes, I consider Medicare inadequate. Like most, I had a tough time affording what I considered a necessary supplement. Which is why like many cranky old political geeks – I supported the fight for the Advantage supplement as an alternative to the Medigap supplements.

    You haven’t had to research it, yet, I imagine – but, I discovered that in my case, a savings of $200/month still provided me with virtually the same benefits as Medicare + Schedule J Medigap. And that is sufficient for easily the overwhelming majority of seniors.

    Not that I won’t stop fighting for better, more inclusive and appropriate. I look forward, for example, to the complete revision of drug pricing and bidding a la the military model – which we were screwed out of by the last lot of pols.

    As for the debt burden – you’re the one stuck between conservatives who whimper about insurance companies being put out of business by the success of single-payer plans – and conservatives who whimper that the government is incapable of managing such a plan. Which contradiction and talking point is it to be?

    Check on the cost of managing SSA and Medicare and you’ll find they = ~2.8%. Compare that to, say, one of the leaner insurance providers like United Healthcare and you will learn where bureaucrats find a home.

    The only problem with either – and especially SSA – is Congress deciding that people with 6-figure incomes need no longer contribute to the tax pool. Absurd.

    Do I trust the government. Hardly. But, their history is one of screwing working people and the middle class in general to service a very narrow constituency. That’s why the arm-twisting that’s called politics is required.

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  9. BobMcVictoria says:

    Having lived in both countries (Canada for the past two years), I get lots of questions about health care here. I wouldn’t go back to the American system for anything!
    The idea that Canadians go south for health care just doesn’t hold water. Who but the very rich could afford it? Believe me … Canadians feel sorry for Americans when it comes to health care.

    • judy hendry says:

      Day after day, we hear uninformed announcers, politicians knock the Canadian system of health-care. Yes, elective surgeries may have to wait-Iwaited one day only with a fractured humerus, for an operating room. this is an exception. americans, like your newly appointed Homeland Security director, has spoken about our borders as beig little better than Mexico’s border with the U.S.We hear American news constantly, but it appears that very few Americans know much about their peaceful neighbours, their no.1 trading partner. enough.

  10. Barbara Pierson says:

    I do not need someone from Canada who has healthcare to tell me what Americans who do not have heathcare need. If we all had enough money to travel to another country for care, we would not need nor care what type of healthcare is provided. I am sure that the Canadian woman’s follow-up care was in Canada and not the US. I felt insulted by the Canadian woman telling us what we should do here in the US when millions of us, including our children do not have the money to go to a doctor or dentist for simple routine care…something she and her family can do without worry.

  11. samantha andersen says:

    I live in the US. I am 24, I have no insurance. I have a one year old son who also has no insurance. I have been shopping around for policies for both of us to get covered, and the cheapest one with the best coverage is going to run me 420.00 per month. I can’t afford it, so I can’t buy it.

    The propaganda fueled and projected by conservatives in this country is outrageous. Watching the tv, reading news from mainstream sources, you would think “wow, a single payer system would totally suck, Canadians are coming in DROVES to the US for healthcare, and insurance companies are only making 2% profit, so they aren’t as evil as we all thought” then, you turn the channel and feel a little confused.

    THAT is the message we are getting in the US!! The latest form of propaganda is that insurance companies are making a 2% profit, so they aren’t making as much bank as previously assessed. That is BULLSHIT. Blue Cross/Blue Shields’ revenues last year were in the SEVERAL BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Take 2% out of several billion…. That leaves you with several million. Not exactly a small profit margin.

    I am pissed. I am an American citizen. I pay taxes, I vote. I don’t break the law. I have an education, I care for my child appropriately. So what did I do wrong to deserve to not have access to health care for my child?!?!?!

    Fuck being patriotic. I hate this damn country. We can’t get anything right. We can’t insure the poorest in our nation, we can only help the richest. While the poor flounder, politicians ridicule them, offer scare tactics to keep people from voicing (and believing in) the truth about our politics. Excessive lobbying controls our policies. Pretty soon, a corporation is going to be running for the presidency.

  12. Jonny Blaze says:

    Who cares about America. Americans can’t see their own gov’t abuses them. They can’t see they are used by the administration. They can’t see their gov’t murdered JFK, slammed planes into the WTC and deprives them from health care….hell the IRS is one of the biggest lies (your own constitution supports the people not to be taxed on wages earned from labour) and Americans can’t see it!! How stupid do you have to be? I will never set foot in America. Americans are seperated by race, religion, class, and politics. No unity. That is why Americans will never be truly free. Canada is the real land of the free and the home of the brave.

  13. zorki says:

    These topics of debate are highly emotionally charged and rightly so. This is not about countries within the geographical domain or the people therein. It is about the elected leaders who consistently lie and decieve all of the people. What do we do about it, well no doubt the common denominator has already manifested, we await it’s arrival which hopefully will be here soon.

  14. Jim Penton says:

    As someone who has lived in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico and holds citizenship in both Canada and the U.S. (I was born with both!) I am shocked at the untrue propaganda being circulated in the United States by the right wing. Right now I live in Canada because my pension is Canadian. In the last couple of years I have had major heart surgery, bladder stones removed, and a variety of other medical treatments involving surgery. My wife has cancer now and is receiving excellent care. We have always been given rapid service, and the physicians and nurses have been first rate. We are completely free to go to the medical facilities we want and to the physicians we choose. And best of all we are not out of pocket a cent. The only amount we as seniors pay for drugs is a small fee ($6.11) for having each prescription filled.

    I love the United States but am growing angered at the falsehoods that continually come out of it and the unprincipled way in which certain Americans can’t keep their false propaganda within their own country. Of course, I know that this propaganda only represents one segment of the U.S. population who will believe anything the giant insurance companies tell them and who react to anything a government does as “socialistic” except make war and inflict capital punishment. And I suspect too that much of the nonsense over the health bills in Congress is because of long-standing American racism because the president is black.


  15. mehere says:

    Different people have different concepts of what health care is. What if I don’t agree in ‘chemotherapy’, or if I don’t agree in ‘surgery’ all that much? What if I really don’t care for pharmaceuticals? What if I found other ways to treat illnesses? What if I found that massage, steam-bath and specific diets, can work to treat many many illnesses? What if, in Canada, you have to pay for massage, and you have to pay for steam bath, and you have to pay for ‘special diet’??
    It is true… alot of health problems can be treated with massage, steam bath, and special diets… but in canada we have to pay for those.. whereas some of the other stuff is somewhat ‘free’ at times, but for the most part, I don’t agree with those methods.
    If canada had free massage, and free steam baths, and free food for special diets to treat health problems; that would be big step towards actually having free health care……..(i had over 70 broken bones, so i know what i am talking about)

    • bethany says:

      My stepdad is covered for massages and acupuncture and all those fun things under Canadian health care… (and he has fibromyalgia, so I think he knows what hes talking about). So you cant quite say that in Canada we have to pay for those when you can’t exactly speak for Canadians as a whole.

  16. ky says:

    As a Canadian I would never give up my health care system. Knowing that anytime you become sick or even have something as small as a suspicious mole you want assurance over, you will be covered. That is a far more comforting thought than being scared or financially unable to see a doctor, potentially risking life and limb.

    I took a trip to Texas to visit friends at a University and got horribly sick and unfortunately had to go see a doctor there before I was able to fly home to Ontario. After waiting for what felt like forever, the rather rude doctor came in spent about 5 minutes in silence with me gave me a prescription and sent me off. I had to pay 350 before leaving just for the visit, otherwise they would have added 100 extra for a later payment and said they would mail me the doctors bill. Which I eventually received and was almost $700. All in all I paid over $1000 for one small visit in which the medicines to make me better only cost $25.

    But the good part of my story is the added benefits of Canadian health care, or in my case the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), in which you are allowed two years out of country that you are still covered under our health care plan. Therefore I was reimbursed for my costly trip to the doctors in the States, and had no pesky insurance rates to go up

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