Canada has socialized medicine and a government run, single payer insurance system.  I work in healthcare in the US and have heard several times that the US can’t go the way of Canada. I have also heard talk radio saying that the Canadian model doesn’t work.

I am writing this post to defend the Canadian healthcare model. Here are 5 positive and 2 negative observations about Canadian healthcare.


1. In all my years of growing up in Canada, I have never once had a problem with getting quick primary and catastrophic care in Canada. Whenever I called my primary care physicians, I was in the doctors’ offices within 0-3 days. When a surgeon and I agreed that I needed elective surgery, that surgery was scheduled within 3 weeks. And whenever I went to the ER, I was seen within 1-2 hours, sometimes less.

2. Canadian healthcare is not free. Everyone pays a premium because fair and equitable premiums are automatically deducted from your paycheck. I think this is a good way of ensuring that everyone pays into the system – there are very few freeloaders in Canada. Also, premiums are automatically adjusted based on income, so poor families pay less. Making sure that everyone pays something into the system prevents the “entitlement” mentality (“I deserve care even if I don’t pay for it”).

3. If you get real sick in Canada, you don’t lose your home and risk bankruptcy.

4. If you require catastrophic care in Canada, you get it quickly. Last year my uncle had a massive heart attack. He was flown to Vancouver and in surgery with a specialist the very next day. He had follow up surgeries a few weeks later in a timely fashion. 

5. The story about the Canadian premier from Newfoundland who recently went to Florida for heart surgery that we keep hearing about was not denied heart surgery nor was he placed on a long waiting list in Canada. He was offered surgery in Newfoundland that would have saved his life, but he opted for an alternative, less invasive procedure by a specific physician in Florida who was recommended to him by someone else. So this is not a case of someone not being able to get decent care in Canada. It is a case of a wealthy politician shopping around for a specific doctor and procedure that was more to his liking.


1. Last year I attended a healthcare conference where data were presented showing that the cost of healthcare is rising at an alarming rate in nations with socialized care. So Canada’s socialized medicine is not controlling costs very well. Obama’s insurance reforms will not, in all likelihood, bring rising costs under control. I believe that controlling rising costs can be achieved by changing the culture of healthcare delivery.

2. Canada does not have a co-pay system. Absence of co-pays leads to unnecessary visits at primary care and ER facilities. A co-pay is needed in Canada. It would force some Canadians with mild conditions like sore throats and coughs to think twice about whether they need to see a doctor, assuming they tend to run off to the doctor at the first sign of a cold .

So there you have it - one person’s viewpoint. Whether the Canadian model would work in American is unknown, but it works fairly well for Canadians.

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