Nothing bothers me more than Canadians spouting off about how great our health care system is and how lucky we are not to be Americans. This is usually followed by some horror story about some Flint, Michigan worker who got laid off, lost his extended health benefits, became grievously ill, and kicked off in some decrepit public health care hospital corridor of the Bubonic plague.
Yeah, but reality is slightly less exaggerated. According to OECD data, the United States pays about twice than Canada as a portion of GDP for health care, which means that the dollars invested do not necessarily translate to better care. Even if we only look at the public medicare of Americans, they still spend more than Canada as a percent of GDP and also as an expenditure per capita.
Despite the high spending of medicare in Canada, there are fewer physicians per capita than in most other OECD countries, with just 2.4 physicians per 1,000 population in 2010, well below the OECD average of 3.1. The number of hospital beds for curative care in Canada was 1.7 per 1,000 population in 2009, half of the OECD average.
Comparative rankings with other countries could go on and on, but it all adds up to the same result. Canada doesn’t have the best health care in the world, not by a long shot, and it’s certainly not free and “universal.”
Despite the Canada Health Act, residents in British Columbia pay a progressively rated health care premium, essentially an extra health tax, which amounts to $1,600 at the highest end for a family of three or more. British Columbians who make more than $30,000 a year, which is a gross income pay cheque of only $625 a week or $235 below the provincial average, will pay a monthly health premium of $133 come January, 2013.
About half of Canadian provincial expenditures are related to health care spending, with projections of $17.3 billion in B.C. by 2014-15. With a population of 4.6 million, the math means the province is spending $3,760 on every man, woman and child. The question is, are you getting your $3,760 worth?
I’d argue I’m not. I’ve seen a doctor a handful of times in the past 20 years, and I’ve gone over half a decade at a time without seeking medical treatment or care. Where does the money all go? Presumably to somebody else.
I suppose the argument goes that you don’t care about health care until you need it, but you’re grateful when you do. Again, not in my experience. The rare times I’ve needed health care have been due to tendon injuries from sports activity. For whatever reason, the government doesn’t see fit to spend money on physiotherapy.
I injured my tendon two months ago and saw a doctor today for a referral to a clinic that offers physiotherapy. It isn’t covered by all those health care taxes I give each and every day to the federal and provincial governments. So, the question is, why am I paying for something I can never take advantage of?
Think of universal medicare as a kind of gym membership for which you pay a monthly fee. Sure, it’s great if you take advantage of that membership frequently. But if you don’t ever go, then the membership is utterly useless to you. You can’t opt out of the gym membership since the government forces you to pay, and yet when you actually try and use the membership, they tell you to go and workout at another gym that costs you more money.
But what about extended health benefits through work? Don’t you, like every civilized person in Canada, have that? Yeah, and like everyone else, my extended health benefits pays a whopping 80 percent per treatment up to $300 a year for physiotherapy. Which means at $55 a session I can go to physio six times before I’m paying for the whole thing myself.
The B.C. government is spending $3,760 on my behalf every year. Where’s my friggin’ $3,760 worth of physiotherapy?