Skip to main content

U.S. Healthcare: Privatized -- but government still spends more

The privatized health care system in the United States is widely known for being extremely expensive. U.S. citizens are stuck paying (through taxes or by private payment) much more than any other developed country for health care --in fact about 50% more than the next most expensive (Norway), according to the  recently released Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) report on health care spending (discussed here). 

But less well known is that, even though millions of U.S. citizens have no health care insurance, and millions more are covered only by the basic 'medicaid' system, public spending on health care is actually higher in the U.S. than it is in Canada's (largely public) health care system.

CIHI reports that U.S. public spending on health care was $3,507 in 2008 (in U.S. dollars), while Canadian public spending was $2,863 (also in U.S. dollars).  That's 22.5% higher.  In fact U.S. public spending was the third highest among the 26 developed countries studied.

Of course, private spending on health care in the U.S. was much higher than any other country.  At $4,031, it was more than double the country with the next highest private health care spending (Switzerland) . 

Canada's private spending is also relatively high --  at $1,216, the third highest of the 26 developed (and mostly European) countries studied. Except for Switzerland, private health care spending is less in Europe than it is in Canada.  And public spending as a percentage of total health care spending is higher in every European county than Canada except Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the Slovak Republic. 

Advocates of health care privatization recognize that the U.S. privatized model is not attractive to Canadians, so they often try portray Europe as some sort of mecca of private health care that poor, 'socialist' Canada can learn from. 

But if anything, the lesson from Europe is that we can cut private health care spending.


Popular posts from this blog

Public sector employment in Ontario is far below the rest of Canada

The suggestion that Ontario has a deficit because its public sector is too large does not bear scrutiny. Consider the following. 

Public sector employment has fallen in the last three quarters in Ontario.  Since 2011, public sector employment has been pretty flat, with employment up less than 4 tenths of one percent in the first half of 2015 compared with the first half of 2011.

This contrasts with public sector employment outside of Ontario which has gone up pretty consistently and is now 4.7% higher than it was in the first half of 2011.

Private sector employment has also gone up consistently over that period. In Ontario, it has increased 4.3% since the first half of 2011, while in Canada as a whole it has increased 4.9%.

As a result, public sector employment in Ontario is now shrinking as a percentage of the private sector workforce.  In contrast, in the rest of Canada, it is increasing. Moreover, public sector employment is muchhigher in the rest of Canada than in Ontario.  Indeed as…

The long series of failures of private clinics in Ontario

For many years, OCHU/CUPE has been concerned the Ontario government would transfer public hospital surgeries, procedures and diagnostic tests to private clinics. CUPE began campaigning in earnest against this possibility in the spring of 2007 with a tour of the province by former British Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, who talked about the disastrous British experience with private surgical clinics.

The door opened years ago with the introduction of fee-for-service hospital funding (sometimes called Quality Based Funding). Then in the fall of 2013 the government announced regulatory changes to facilitate this privatization. The government announced Request for Proposals for the summer of 2014 to expand the role of "Independent Health Facilities" (IHFs). 

With mass campaigns to stop the private clinic expansion by the Ontario Health Coalition the process slowed.  

But it seems the provincial Liberal government continues to push the idea.  Following a recent second OCHU tour wi…

Hospital worker sick leave: too much or too little?

Ontario hospital workers are muchless absent due to illness or disability than hospital workers Canada-wide.  In 2014, Ontario hospital workers were absent 10.2 days due to illness or disability, 2.9 days less than the Canada wide average – i.e. 22% less.  In fact, Ontario hospital workers have had consistently fewer sick days for years.

This is also true if absences due to family or personal responsibilities are included.
Statistics Canada data for the last fifteen years for Canada and Ontario are reported in the chart below, showing Ontario hospital workers are consistently off work less.
Assuming, Ontario accounts for about 38% of the Canada-wide hospital workforce, these figures suggest that the days lost due to illness of injury in Canada excluding Ontario are about 13.6 days per year ([13.6 x 0.68] + [10.2 x 0.38] = 13.1).

In other words, hospital workers in the rest of Canada are absent from work due to illness or disability 1/3 more than Ontario hospital workers. 

In fact, Canad…