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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.

dallan@cupe.ca

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