I had a talk with a Canadian recently about health care. He had a lot to say about his own country’s free health care system, and how wonderful it was to not have to pay for health care. I was skeptical about the rosy picture he painted. After all, I have friends in Canada, and they have told me about their country’s high tax rates. And I’ve heard about the waiting lists, too. Let’s look at the evidence.
The Fraser Institute is a non-partisan think tank based in Canada that looks at policies to see whether they are achieving good results for Canadians. Each year they release statistics about the cost and performance of Canada’s health care system. The most recent report is for 2021 (preliminary numbers).
The report (PDF) says:
In 2021, the average unattached (single) individual, earning an average income of $49,215, will pay approximately $4,296 for public health care insurance. An average Canadian family consisting of two adults and two children (earning approximately $150,177) will pay about $15,039 for public health care insurance.
Do Canadians really pay $15,039 per year for health care? Or are they paying to get on a waiting list for health care?
Let’s see another 2021 report, this one about health care wait times:
Specialist physicians surveyed report a median waiting time of 25.6 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment—longer than the wait of 22.6 weeks reported in 2020. This year’s wait time is the longest wait time recorded in this survey’s history and is 175% longer than in 1993, when it was just 9.3 weeks.
The waiting time for a referral to a general practitioner to a specialist increased from 10.5 weeks in 2020 to 11.1 weeks in 2021. And the waiting time from seeing a specialist to actually getting treatment increased from 12.1 weeks in 2020 to 14.5 weeks in 2021. And remember, this is Canadian health care. This isn’t the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, or Johns Hopkins. This is not the best health care in the world. That’s why Canadian politicians who swear their loyalty to the government health care system pack their bags and make for America when they need treatment. And they pay out of pocket for the best care.
Well, maybe these wait times are because the government is spending less on health care?
No. Actually, costs have been going up, and faster than other products and services.
Why is it going up? Well, like the public school monopoly, most of the money goes to administrators. There is no competitive free market system, where providers compete with each other for the dollars of their customers. No one cares about reducing costs to consumers while improving quality. Why would they? Canadians have zero choice in who gives them health care.
I did a quick search of Canadian news stories for the last week, to see what Canadians say about their health care system when they are talking to each other, instead of to Americans.
Here’s a story from the Globe and Mail, the more leftist of Canada’s national newspapers. (archived here)
One of the biggest problems such provinces are facing is a critical shortage of family doctors. One in five people in B.C. don’t have one, with more people pouring into the province every day. Last year, 100,000 people arrived – a record number that only exacerbates a desperate situation.
[…]According to Statistics Canada, 4.6 million people over the age of 12 did not have a family doctor in 2019.
[…]The shortage of physicians is a problem that has been growing over the years. Canada now ranks 51st in doctors per population, according to Index Mundi. In the 1970s, we ranked anywhere between fourth and eighth. The nursing shortage in Canada is just as severe.
And they confirm the Fraser Institute’s per-capita cost number:
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has placed Canada 31st in hospital beds per population among the 38 countries that the OECD rank. In the meantime, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, total health care spending in the country was estimated to be $308-billion in 2021 – or $8,019 per Canadian. This number represents 12.7 per cent of our GDP, which puts our health care spending among the highest in the world.
$8,019 per Canadian! That’s “free health care”?
The article talks about British Columbia in particular:
B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond pointed out that, on one day this week, almost every urgent- and primary-care centre in the city of Victoria was at capacity and not taking patients. The only one that was had a 4.5 hour wait.
My Canadian challenger said that Americans were dying in the streets, because they couldn’t get health care. But I think he was actually talking about his own country. Can you imagine not being able to get into an emergency room, or an urgent care provider? That’s what they have in British Columbia.
Where I live, I can go to 3 different hospital systems within 10 miles of my house. And that’s not counting the urgent care clinics on every city block. 24-hour pharmacies open on Easter at 3 AM. My health insurance costs $85 a paycheck. And when I needed an MRI, I got it the same week.
Still think you want Canadian health care? Still think you want a government monopoly to make everyone “equal”?
6 thoughts on “Free health care? How much does Canada’s universal system cost?”
I can’t get past $85/paycheck for health insurance. That is an unusually generous package! Although you’re in tech, if I remember, so that may be necessary to attract and retain people.
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Yes well I have HDHP. It comes to $170 a month and that’s just for one person.
Sweden has the same type of socialist health care that Canada has. In college back in 2000, I was working with a girl from Sweden. She had injured her shoulder years earlier, and it would pop out of joint at random times and this was quite painful for her.
One day, she came into work excited as all get out, because she had just gotten a phone call telling her that she could come home and get the surgery to repair her shoulder.
She had been on the list for over 4 years…
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This article is accurate. I live in Vancouver. Tax rates are insane, I pay tens of thousands into it and the one time I had fractured a finger I waited 8 hours in triage AND the cast fee of $250 was not covered by the “free healthcare.”
My sister was quoted 1.5+ years for specialist shoulder surgery; she managed to get in 4 months later after calling the office every weekday morning to ask about cancellation opportunities…
…she learned how to do that from my mother who has multiple health problems and has had to do the same thing most of her life including seeing 3 different doctors to get a breast cancer diagnosis after she felt a lump.
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In Canada to cover eye care, medication, dental and things like physio many work places and employees still have health plan coverage.
So when they say health care it is only a select list of items as deemed necessary or tested enough by the gov’t.
And things can lose coverage at any time if gov’t needs to save money during a yearly budget.
Even moving across canada by province coverage varies since it is a provincial item
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Yes! Most Americans don’t even know that. We have to get out and look at what other people have tried and whether it worked.
“I have a feeling” is not the right way to make a decision.