(Don’t) Blame Canada

A brief word on my latest interaction with American medical care: a broken finger, a clean and quiet emergency room, an aide who promised me he'd save my wedding ring (which had dug into the base of the finger), a swift x-ray, a careful bandaging and splint and a couple of Tylenol and I was on my way. Flawless. I might also add another recent example: the slow and careful diagnosis of a wheat allergy after all other attempts to find the reason for a frustratingly resilient and extremely itchy rash and hives. But I have no way of knowing what the full costs were, although I did see that my allergy test ran to over $2600. But we do get excellent care a lot of the time. And it's worth remembering that even as we gripe about its inefficiency and cost.

Still there is enormous inefficiency and escalating costs. And it simply isn't replicated abroad. In most cases, free markets increase efficiency and keep costs down. In healthcare, the data just aren't there. Check out the following graph from this very helpful post:


The two countries diverge in the early 1970s, just after Canada's 1966 Medicare single-payer system was enacted.

Yes, there are longer wait times in Canada; yes, Canada free rides off some US pharmaceutical research; yes, US medicine, for the most part, is amazing.

But anyone not blinded by ideology has to see that, in this case, free markets are robbing us blind. They are supposed to do the opposite. And our healthcare outcomes are very similar: