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Public health care: Canada lags other countries, Ontario even further back

Among the claims made by the critics of socialized health care in Canada, one often repeated suggestion is that Canada is an out-lier (a socialist throwback, even) and that many highly developed European countries have a more privatized health care system.

Well of course, the range of services covered by the public system varies from country to country, with one providing this range of services, another providing that.  But the most comprehensive single comparison is the percentage of health care costs covered by the public system.

And those figures make clear that Canada has some catching up to do if it is going to match the public coverage provided by other developed countries.

The 2010 study National Healthcare Expenditure Trends from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reports (p. 65) that the share of health care costs in Canada covered by the public system is behind almost all European countries.  Only the Switzerland and  the Slovak Republic lag behind (and the latter, only slightly).  The other 15 European countries reported are ahead, some very far ahead.

Ontario is even further behind than Canada as a whole, with the lowest share of costs covered by the public system of any province or territory (see page 32 of the CIHI report).  

Opponents of Canadian public health like to talk about Europe because the true test case of health care privatization is the U.S.A.  It truly is the privatization leader, with the lowest share of health care costs covered by the public system (and with private corporations playing a major role in health care delivery).  And that highly privatized system delivers poor results on many fronts.

The privatized U.S. system is very expensive, costing much more than our, more public system.  In fact, even the much less comprehensive U.S. public system eats up more of the economy than the Canadian public system does (see page 58, figure 40 of the CIHI report).   And of course, the private portion of U.S. health care absorbs much (much) more of the economy than in Canada.

The leading example of health care privatization is not much of a model.  So no doubt, we will continue to hear more about health care privatization in Europe -- even if the facts don't really suit their case. -- Doug


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