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INTERNATIONAL: Tight elections and the Canada/US comparison

Up north they are having an election in the land where they no longer ever win the Stanley Cup, (although it should be noted that like the “Swiss” who won the Americas Cup over the New Zealanders mostly because the Swiss had a Kiwi crew, most “American” hockey teams are stuffed with Canucks). And the election is going to be very close. Go to this chart and follow the polls along from 2000 to today — interesting stuff and a potted history of Canadian politics in the last 4 years.

So what does this have to do with health care in the US. Well you’ve guessed it, the old chestnut of health care systems comparisons has reared its ugly head in THCB. As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, the Canadians are not planning on moving to an American system. That includes the newly resurgent Conservatives. Even if they win (and its about even in the polls now) both they and the governing Liberals are promising more cash for the current system, rather than changing course. In fact at the bottom of this news story in which (Liberal PM) Martin is trying damn hard to paint the Conservatives a shade of Republican–with references to gays and abortion–the health care issue is made clear:

    Harper (Conservative Leader, BTW) said on Friday he would inject C$10.4 billion ($7.7 billion) to C$15.2 billion into the ailing health-care system over the next five years. He pledged C$600 million to $800 million to cover drug costs over C$5,000 a year, and C$2 billion to C$3 billion a year for general health costs.

    On Thursday, Martin pledged C$26 billion to C$28 billion in new spending — including plans for a national day-care program and an expanded military — which he said could be done without driving the federal budget into the red. He too has pledged to inject more money into the public health-care system.

So basically they are outdoing each other for who will spend more on health care. And don’t forget that the Liberal government under Chretien in the 1990s actually cut healthcare costs and reduced healthcare as a share of GDP–not something that Americans have ever seen happen here!

So given that the Canadians are not heading our way, why bring this up? Well funnily enough a new report from both Federal Governments is out comparing the two countries’ health care systems. And what were the findings? Well no surprises. Insured Americans had a slightly better time in the system than all Canadians, while uninsured Americans had a worse experience. Cost was a big issue for Americans, while not one for Canadians, while waiting times were an issue for a large minority of Canucks.

    Americans were more likely to report that the quality of their health care services in general was excellent compared with Canadians (42 percent compared to 39 percent.) Among uninsured American respondents, 28 percent said the quality of the health care services they received was “excellent,” 44 percent “good,” and 28 percent “fair” or “poor.” When asked about their satisfaction with health care services in general, 53 percent of Americans and 44 percent of Canadians said they were “very satisfied,” while 37 percent of Americans and 43 percent of Canadians said they were “somewhat satisfied.” Among uninsured Americans, 39 percent were “very satisfied” with the services they received, and 40 percent were “somewhat satisfied.”

    Unmet medical needs during the past 12 months were reported by 13 percent of Americans and 11 percent of Canadians. Among those with an unmet need, Americans were more likely to identify cost as the primary barrier to health care (53 percent of unmet needs cases), while Canadians cited waiting for care as the primary barrier (32 percent of cases). Among the 11 percent of American respondents who were uninsured, four out of every ten reported an unmet medical need. Likewise, only 43 percent of the uninsured respondents said they had a regular medical doctor, compared with 80 percent of total American respondents and 85 percent of Canadian respondents.

So the message is fairly clear. With 40% of the uninsured with an unmet medical need, and less than half having access to a regular doctor, if you’re going to be uninsured in the US, move up north! Alternatively, maybe you should vote down here?

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