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Archive for January, 2008

Democracy and representative government are ideologies that Canada and America share, and with the vast majority of Canadians settled along the border the US has a prominent influence on the Canadian political culture; however, these two countries have basically contrary ways of managing their health care systems. By examining the Wikipedia website “Canadian and American health care systems compared” the distinction between the US’s consumer driven system and Canada’s Socialist structure is readily apparent. In the United States’ health care is primarily privatized and places responsibility in the citizen’s hands; conversely, Canada’s health care is primarily public with heavy subsidization by the government. Both systems have strengths and weaknesses; nonetheless, the Canadian system is superior because it is more cost efficient, even while supplying universal coverage, and because of the regulations on pharmaceutical drugs ensuring affordable medication.

Health directly affects the well being of citizens; therefore, it always plays a critical role in the governmental processes: from being evaluated by the grass roots, queried by the opposition government, to comprising a major portion of every budget. As with anything in politics the health care system falls under intense scrutiny; however, if a survey of health care administrators is an indicator, Canadians view the system as being legitimate, given that 99% responded optimistically when questioned about the delivery and efficiency of the system. Financially, a 2004 study of health care stated that $2,120 (US dollars) was spent on average per person, which equated to 9.8% of the total GDP. Additionally an average cost of $917 was spent annually by citizens on the private sector; on the other hand, this figure was taken before the Chaoulli vs. Quebec case where the Supreme Court ruled, in 2005, that it was unconstitutional to prevent people from seeking out private health care. Consequently, the sector has flourished since this decision so the average figure is probably substantially higher than this. Moreover, the government takes into account the cost of prescription drugs and the necessity for treatment; thus, the Canadian government has set up regulations to make these expenditures reasonable to the consumer through negotiations with the pharmaceutical companies and strict legislation to guarantee affordability.  This is significant because all drugs administered in hospitals fall under the program Medicare and are fully covered. Thus, if you are in an accident and need a life saving operation you will not wake up with a financially devastating bill. What is more, 2/3 of citizens have a certain amount of coverage from an employer or service for prescriptions. As it stands $509 is spent per capita on drugs each year, though a 2005 study regrettably indicated that 20% of Canadians neglected to fulfill their prescriptions due to the price; however, that is half the percentile of those to the south. Convincingly, the role that the Canadian government plays on health care has enabled citizens to have a confidence and trust in the system since in an emergency they can count on receiving medical treatment regardless of cost. Therefore, the phenomenon of job lock is minimal since supplementary insurance is not a necessity or worry.  

In contrast, the American health care system’s strength is in having substantially more accessibility, shorter wait times, cutting-edge technology and highly compensated professionals. American citizens have greater access to health care services such as hospitals, because the country has a larger, primarily dense, population that merits a greater number of facilities. Notwithstanding, it seems that density has no hindrance on wait times. Take the fact that 88% of the population experiences an average wait in an emergency ward of under 4 hours, and only 23% of citizens have to wait more than 4 weeks to see a specialist. Furthermore, tests that need sophisticated technology, such as a biopsy, only take a few weeks to book compared to months for the neighbours up north. A reason for this is the fact that the hospitals can afford the newest, ground breaking technology, because the private sector creates a substantial surplus of capital. Meaning there is a greater quantity of machines like MRI’s, or CT scanners in relation to the population. This surplus also allocates more money to doctors, nurses and administration staff. A 1996 study states that the average United States practitioner’s income was twice the amount of money compared to those practising in Canada; thus, there are more doctors per capita in the United States than in Canada.

The strengths of one system are often the weaknesses of another. In the US there is better technology available for doctors in the than in Canada, but conversely there is a greater feeling of legitimacy about the health care system in Canada than in the US. When it comes down to which is the better system my conclusion is based on the belief that medicine is fundamentally about those receiving care. As such it is easy to ascertain that the economic efficiency and universal coverage of the Canadian socialized health care system is the superior one for the citizen. Economically the Canadian government spends less of their GDP on health care for complete coverage than the US does for only partial coverage. Government involvement has also kept the cost of prescription drugs lower in Canada which means more people acquire the drugs they need to remain healthy instead of neglecting their wellbeing because of costs. Consequently, the efficient health care system establishes an economy of healthy, worry free citizens. Still, wait times are considerably longer in Canada than in the US, but with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Chaoulli vs. Quebec case the private sector is growing and it is arguable that it will create a greater equilibrium, without segregating those who cannot afford a consumer driven private sector.

            In conclusion, the Canadian health care system is superior because it is perceived as legitimate, is economically more efficient and supplies universal coverage. 

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