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Comparison of Health Care Systems in Canada and the United States
Thursday, August 1, 2013



Nice article in wikipedia that compares health care systems in Canada and the U.S. Some excerpts from the article:


Wait times (taken verbatim from wikipedia article with link above)



One complaint about both the U.S. and Canadian health care systems is waiting times, whether for a specialist, major elective surgery, such as hip replacement, or specialized treatments, such as radiation for breast cancer; wait times in each country are affected by various factors. In the United States, access to health care is primarily determined by whether a person has access to funding to pay for treatment and by the availability of services in the area and by willingness of the provider to deliver service at the price set by the insurer. In Canada the wait time is set according to the availability of services in the area and by the relative need of the person needing treatment. In addition, the doctor-to-patient ratio is lower in Canada than in the United States. According to a 2009 Commonwealth consensus, Veteran's hospitals in Pennsylvania and New York, respectively, have more doctors available separately than in Canada.[citation needed]


As reported by the Health Council of Canada, a 2010 Commonwealth survey found that 42% of Canadians waited 2 hours or more in the emergency room, vs. 29% in the U.S.; 43% waited 4 weeks or more to see a specialist, vs. 10% in the U.S. The same survey states that 37% of Canadians say it is difficult to access care after hours (evenings, weekends or holidays) without going to the emergency department over 34% of Americans. Furthermore, 47% of Canadians, and 50% of Americans who visited emergency departments over the past two years feel that they could have been treated at their normal place of care if they were able to get an appointment.[43]


A report published by Health Canada in 2008 included statistics on self-reported wait times for diagnostic services.[44] The median wait time for diagnostic services such as MRI and CAT scans is two weeks with 89.5% waiting less than 3 months.[44][45] The median wait time to see a special physician is a little over four weeks with 86.4% waiting less than 3 months.[44][46] The median wait time for surgery is a little over four weeks with 82.2% waiting less than 3 months.[44][47] In the U.S., patients on Medicaid, the low-income government programs, can wait three months or more to see specialists. Because Medicaid payments are low, some have claimed that some doctors do not want to see Medicaid patients. For example, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, specialists agreed to spend one afternoon every week or two at a Medicaid clinic, which meant that Medicaid patients had to make appointments not at the doctor's office, but at the clinic, where appointments had to be booked months in advance.[48] A 2009 study found that on average the wait in the United States to see a medical specialist is 20.5 days.[49]


In a 2009 survey of physician appointment wait times in the United States, the average wait time for an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon in country as a whole was 17 days. In Dallas, Texas the wait was 45 days (the longest wait being 365 days). Nationwide across the U.S. the average wait time to see a family doctor was 20 days. The average wait time to see a family practitioner in Los Angeles, California was 59 days and in Boston, Massachusetts it was 63 days.[50]


Studies by the Commonwealth Fund found that 42% of Canadians waited 2 hours or more in the emergency room, vs. 29% in the U.S.; 57% waited 4 weeks or more to see a specialist, vs. 23% in the U.S., but Canadians had more chances of getting medical attention at nights, or on weekends and holidays than their American neighbors without the need to visit an ER (54% compared to 61%).[51] Statistics from the Canadian free market think tank Fraser Institute in 2008 indicate that the average wait time between the time when a general practitioner refers a patient for care and the receipt of treatment was almost four and a half months in 2008, roughly double what it had been 15 years before.[52]


A 2003 survey of hospital administrators conducted in Canada, the U.S., and three other countries found dissatisfaction with both the U.S. and Canadian systems. For example, 21% of Canadian hospital administrators, but less than 1% of American administrators, said that it would take over three weeks to do a biopsy for possible breast cancer on a 50-year-old woman; 50% of Canadian administrators versus none of their American counterparts said that it would take over six months for a 65-year-old to undergo a routine hip replacement surgery. However, U.S. administrators were the most negative about their country's health care system. Hospital executives in all five countries expressed concerns about staffing shortages and emergency department waiting times and quality.[53][54]


In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the President and CEO of University Health Network, Toronto, said that Michael Moore's film Sicko "exaggerated the performance of the Canadian health system — there is no doubt that too many patients still stay in our emergency departments waiting for admission to scarce hospital beds." However, "Canadians spend about 55% of what Americans spend on health care and have longer life expectancy, and lower infant mortality rates. Many Americans have access to quality health care. All Canadians have access to similar care at a considerably lower cost." There is "no question" that the lower cost has come at the cost of "restriction of supply with sub-optimal access to services," said Bell. A new approach is targeting waiting times, which are reported on public websites.[55][56][57]


In 2007 Shona Holmes, a Waterdown, Ontario woman who had a Rathke's cleft cyst removed at the Mayo Clinic, in Arizona, sued the Ontario government for failing to re-imburse her $95,000 in medical expenses.[58][59][60][61][62][63][64][65] Holmes had characterized her condition as an emergency, said she was losing her sight, and portrayed her condition as a life-threatening brain cancer. In July 2009 Holmes agreed to appear in television ads broadcast in the United States warning Americans of the dangers of adopting a Canadian style health care system. The ads she appeared in triggered debates on both sides of the border. After her ad appeared critics pointed out discrepancies in her story, including that Rathke's cleft cyst, the condition she was treated for, was not a form of cancer, and was not life-threatening.[66][67]





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