Canada’s “free” single-payer health care system costs each family $11,000 per year

From the Vancouver Sun.


The true cost of Canada’s health care system is more than $11,000 in taxes each year for an average family, according to Vancouver-based think tank The Fraser Institute.

The institute’s report calculates the amount of taxes the average family pays to all levels of government in a year and the percentage of the total tax bill that goes towards public health care insurance.

A family of two parents with an average income of $113,226 and two children will pay $11,401 for public health care insurance, the report says.

[…]Institute senior fellow Nadeem Esmail said in a news release sent out this morning: “There’s a widespread belief that health care is free in Canada. It’s not; our tax dollars cover the cost of it. But the way we pay for health care disguises exactly how much public health care insurance costs Canadian families and how that cost is increasing over time.”

The release noted that since 2002, the cost of health care insurance for the average Canadian family increased by 59.8 per cent before inflation.

“By way of comparison, the cost of public health care increased more than twice as fast as the cost of shelter, roughly four times as fast as the cost of food, and more than five times as fast as the cost of clothing,” the release said.

This is the system that Obamacare is trying to force onto us by eliminating private sector health care. But proponents of single payer health care tell us that it’s better for patients than the American free enterprise system. Is it? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

A defense of American health care

Story from the Hoover Institute at Stanford University.

The article compares American health care to health care in other places like Canada, the UK and Europe.

The full article. I almost never cite the full article, but this is a must read.

Here’s a Second Opinion

By Scott W. Atlas

Ten reasons why America’s health care system is in better condition than you might suppose. ByScott W. Atlas.

Medical care in the United States is derided as miserable compared to health care systems in the rest of the developed world. Economists, government officials, insurers, and academics beat the drum for a far larger government role in health care. Much of the public assumes that their arguments are sound because the calls for change are so ubiquitous and the topic so complex. Before we turn to government as the solution, however, we should consider some unheralded facts about America’s health care system.

1. Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the United Kingdom and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

2. Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.Breast cancer mortality in Canada is 9 percent higher than in the United States, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher, and colon cancer among men is about 10 percent higher.

3. Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries.Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit from statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease, are taking them. By comparison, of those patients who could benefit from these drugs, only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons, and 17 percent of Italians receive them.

4. Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians.Take the proportion of the appropriate-age population groups who have received recommended tests for breast, cervical, prostate, and colon cancer:

  • Nine out of ten middle-aged American women (89 percent) have had a mammogram, compared to fewer than three-fourths of Canadians (72 percent).
  • Nearly all American women (96 percent) have had a Pap smear, compared to fewer than 90 percent of Canadians.
  • More than half of American men (54 percent) have had a prostatespecific antigen (PSA) test, compared to fewer than one in six Canadians (16 percent).
  • Nearly one-third of Americans (30 percent) have had a colonoscopy, compared with fewer than one in twenty Canadians (5 percent).

5. Lower-income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians. Twice as many American seniors with below-median incomes self-report “excellent” health (11.7 percent) compared to Canadian seniors (5.8 percent). Conversely, white, young Canadian adults with below-median incomes are 20 percent more likely than lower-income Americans to describe their health as “fair or poor.”

6. Americans spend less time waiting for care than patients in Canada and the United Kingdom. Canadian and British patients wait about twice as long—sometimes more than a year—to see a specialist, have elective surgery such as hip replacements, or get radiation treatment for cancer. All told, 827,429 people are waiting for some type of procedure in Canada. In Britain, nearly 1.8 million people are waiting for a hospital admission or outpatient treatment.

7. People in countries with more government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed. More than 70 percent of German, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and British adults say their health system needs either “fundamental change” or “complete rebuilding.”

8. Americans are more satisfied with the care they receive than Canadians. When asked about their own health care instead of the “health care system,” more than half of Americans (51.3 percent) are very satisfied with their health care services, compared with only 41.5 percent of Canadians; a lower proportion of Americans are dissatisfied (6.8 percent) than Canadians (8.5 percent).

9. Americans have better access to important new technologies such as medical imaging than do patients in Canada or Britain. An overwhelming majority of leading American physicians identify computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as the most important medical innovations for improving patient care during the previous decade—even as economists and policy makers unfamiliar with actual medical practice decry these techniques as wasteful. The United States has thirty-four CT scanners per million Americans, compared to twelve in Canada and eight in Britain. The United States has almost twenty-seven MRI machines per million people compared to about six per million in Canada and Britain.

10. Americans are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations. The top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other developed country. Since the mid- 1970s, the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology has gone to U.S. residents more often than recipients from all other countries combined. In only five of the past thirty-four years did a scientist living in the United States not win or share in the prize. Most important recent medical innovations were developed in the United States.

Despite serious challenges, such as escalating costs and care for the uninsured, the U.S. health care system compares favorably to those in other developed countries.

This essay appeared on the website of the National Center for Policy Analysis on March 24, 2009. An earlier version was published in theWashington Times.

Available from the Hoover Press is Power to the Patient: Selected Health Care Issues and Policy Solutions, edited by Scott W. Atlas. To order, call 800.935.2882 or

Scott W. Atlas is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor of radiology and chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical School.

Note that the author is a professor of radiology and chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical School. Stanford and Harvard are generally regarded as the two best universities in the United States.

6 thoughts on “Canada’s “free” single-payer health care system costs each family $11,000 per year”

  1. So all noise about our system costing more and delivering worse results, it looks like you get what you pay for.


  2. Just for comparison’s sake, what does the average family of 4 in the USA pay for health insurance, co-pay’s etc.?

    I realize there’s a considerable amount of variation based on circumstance, but somehow I doubt it’s 11k.


    1. Well, in my company it’s about $100 per pay check for full family coverage = $2600 per year. And the care is far superior – no waiting lists. We don’t have to pay for an extra layer of government bureaucrats here.


      1. Wow that’s cheap. My family pays the 11k in taxes for the healthcare system AND another $1000 a year in eye/dental/drug coverage which isn’t covered by the Canada Health Act.

        Plus your quality is so much better. I broke a leg in the USA and had to go to the emergency room. It felt like being on the set of Star Trek, that’s how big of a different it was from Canadian hospitals.


  3. “This is the system that Obamacare is trying to force onto us by eliminating private sector health care.”

    Sorry, but no, Obamacare has little in common with Canada’s system. For starters, no one is going to be forced to buy insurance from approved companies or face fines. Yes, we pay for our medicare system through our taxes (those of us with incomes high enough to pay taxes), but it doesn’t cover everything, and we can buy additional private insurance from whomever we want. Also, medicare is provincial, not federal (some provinces charge premiums, but many jobs cover that as a perk). What is cost and coverage for one province is not the same as another. Also, some 30% of care is provided through private sources. Personally, I would like to see us increase that private/public partnership.

    We’re a single income family of 4, and while my husband has a good income, it’s certainly not above $100K as the Van Sun’s example used get $11,000, so based on their numbers, we aren’t paying anywhere near that much. My husband has struggled for years with a variety of health problems, at one point forced to take medical leave for 1 1/2 years. If we were in the US system, he probably would not be able to get insurance at all due to all his pre-existing conditions, and we certainly couldn’t afford the premiums. The US system has plenty of flaws, too, and desperately needs changes but the US is a republic, and it should be up to the states to do that, not the federal government. Obamacare is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Our system has flaws and changes are needed, but I much prefer our system over the current US system – and please, don’t compare what we’ve got to Obamacare. They have nothing in common other then a vague description of being “universal” health care.


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