President Obama set out to reform health care not because Americans were clamoring to profoundly change our system, but because he wishes to transform the relationship between the individual and the state. The Congressional Budget Office has punctured the risible claim that a Democratic revamp of the American health care system would save money over the long haul. The president is now losing momentum as his ungrounded promises run smack into certain realities. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 89 percent of Americans are satisfied with the health care they receive. And surprisingly, even 70 percent of the uninsured reported themselves as either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their health care.
Canadians, researcher John R. Lott reports, were asked the same questions in a Harris survey. "In most comparisons, Canadians were more satisfied than uninsured Americans, but just barely, and they were nowhere near as satisfied as insured Americans." Seventy-seven percent of insured Americans were happy with their ability to access timely non-emergency care. Only 60 percent of Canadians were. And while large majorities of Canadians say they prefer their system to ours, far more Canadians than Americans (26 percentage points difference) express frustration at not being able to "see top-quality medical specialists."
A 2001 survey of Canadian doctors, cited in "National Health Insurance in the United States and Canada: Race, Territory, and the Roots of Difference" by Gerard William Boychuk, found that they rated their system more critically than American doctors do ours. Whereas 72 percent of American doctors rated emergency room care as good or excellent, only 51 percent of Canadians said as much. Hospital administrators in the U.S. rated 88 percent of intensive care units as good/excellent compared with 70 percent of Canadian; 81 percent of operating theaters compared with 62 percent Canadian; and diagnostic and imaging technology 84 percent compared with 49 percent Canadian.
Since the 2005 ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court that Quebec could not lawfully forbid a citizen from paying privately for medical care, private clinics have begun to spring up around Canada (though it varies by province).
Canada is a nice country. For their sake, I hope their medical delivery system continues to evolve toward more competition. I hope the same for ours.
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