Opinion / Politics

Oh, Canada: Should the US emulate Canada’s National Health Service?

healthWhile progressives in the U.S. continue to push for government-run health care, the Province of Alberta’s government this week cleared the way for a health omnibus bill that seeks to privatize its health care system.

The Canadian system is often touted as a model for the U.S. to follow; Sen. Bernie Sanders, for example, applauded the Canadian system during a presidential debate. But although the health care system in the U.S. needs much improvement, it’s very telling that the Canadian system is seeking to be more like ours.

The Health Statutes Amendment Act, Bill 30, “proposes to cut approval times for private surgical facilities, allow the ministry to contract directly with doctors — and allow private companies to take over the administrative functions of physician clinics.”

The bill addresses three longstanding problems in the Canadian system: Long wait times for surgeries, too-short visits with medical professionals, and the presence of too many middlemen. Yet these are just some of the systemic problems of the Canadian healthcare system. According to Health Minister Tyler Shandro, the move to privatization this year will allow doctors to “focus on providing care instead of focusing on administration,” which is really what health care should be about.

The lesson for Americans in Canada’s health care troubles is that monolithic, single-payer systems don’t work, and the reforms we seek should be more market-oriented.

The health care industry in the U.S. is far from a free market environment — which is evident in the fact that pricing is largely kept hidden from patients and employers. Price signals are critical for a free market to function. Without them, costs will continue to rise, and middlemen will have free rein to manipulate supply and demand.

Four U.S. senators recently unveiled a bill that would make health care pricing more transparent. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and his colleagues say that “This legislation would codify the two health care price transparency rules that came out of President Donald Trump’s ‘Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare’ Executive Order — which requires hospitals and insurers to reveal their low, discounted cash prices and negotiated rates to consumers before they receive medical care.”

These new price transparency regulations were important long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the aftermath of the economic disaster caused by the government shutdowns, “they’re a crucial first step toward engaging market forces to empower patients to access quality care at a lower cost.”

Another systemic failure of the U.S. health care industry is the misalignment of incentives. Usually in free market systems, the person receiving services is also the one that pays for those services. Health care doesn’t function this way. Ever since the wage freezes of 1942 enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, health insurance in the private sector has been tied to employment.

Ironically, this progressive initiative is the root cause of what is known today as “pre-existing conditions.” Individuals, not corporations, should own their benefits and have them as portable to eliminate any risks associated with underlying medical conditions. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) are carrying companion bills in both chambers that seek to put patients back in control of their care by empowering them to use tax-advantaged dollars to purchase services that are shoppable and portable.

What the people of Alberta have come to learn through their government-run health system is that government agencies are not as efficient or effective as the private sector. Furthermore, individuals who are in control of their health care decisions keep those organizations in the private sector accountable when they are both the customer and the payer.

The U.S. needs to follow the example of Alberta and seek opportunities to make the delivery of health care more of a free-market environment.

Reprinted with Permission from - The Hill by - David Balat

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10 months ago

I DO NOT WANT socialized medicine. I mentioned before on a previous post that I have a good friend that has duel citizenship. He lives in Canada and crosses the border into the US for any major medical issue because once it’s been determined in Canada that you need to have a procedure done it requires weeks if not months before it can be taken care of…usually because there is a waiting list. That’s if Health Canada says you can have it done…forget elective surgeries. Unlike here in the USA, once it’s been determined you need something done it’s usually taken care of within a week, maybe two, and should you decide you would like to have elective surgery…no problem. I don’t want to have my appendix on the brink of rupturing and have to wait because there are 76 people in front of me waiting on the operating room scheduled to have colonoscopy’s. Worst yet, some government official telling me I’m not ill enough yet and that I need to wait.

Anthony Anderson
10 months ago
Reply to  Steven

The point of this op-ed is that Alberta is proposing legislation to move away from government controlled (socialized) medicine and seeks to PRIVATIZE it. It’s mentioned in the first paragraph and the author then goes on to explain how Alberta’s bill addresses the some of the same things that you mention about the Canadian healthcare system in your response.

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