International Health Care Systems

Financial Risk and Medical care: U.S. vs. Canada

In the U.S. a much higher percentage of medical is paid for out of pocket.  Further, there are about 45 million uninsured.  In Canada, the government pays for almost all health care.  The benefits and costs of a centralized, universal health care system have been discussed previously on this blog (see Oct 2, 2007 and Apr 25, 2008).  One benefit of a government-run program is that there are no uninsured; financial risk for medical expenditures is transferred entirely away from the individual in the Canadian system.  

Two blog posts highlight the stark contrast of the two systems:

  • WSJ Health Blog: As more and more people lose their jobs with the economic downturn, the number of uninsured is increasing.  This post from the WSJ Health Blog focuses on that in the U.S. there is a “growing number of patients behind on their mortgages because they are swamped with medical debts.”
  • Health Business Blog: “A Canadian relative of mine went to the hospital for ‘minor’ surgery and ended up in the ICU …He was pretty agitated while intubated…A few days later when the tubes were out and he could speak, he said that when he saw so many doctors and American relatives around he was convinced he was in the US, running up a huge bill that he wouldn’t be able to pay.  That’s what was agitating him more than anything else.  Luckily for him he was actually in Canada.”

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