Canadians Like Their Socialized Medicine – Would Americans?

Canadians Like Their Socialized Medicine – Would Americans?

© David Burton 2020

Canadian Health Care

     Several of my trips to Israel were made with groups composed of both Americans and Canadians. In conversations with my Canadian travel mates, the American health care system was sometimes castigated. My Canadian friends thought it unconscionable that we Americans have a health care system that was not “free” to all. In Canada, the health care system is socialized and everyone is covered – as in England and other countries. I have previously written about government run health care systems.

     Way back in 2008, it was reported that: ”Years ago, Canadians touted their health care system as the best in the world; today Canadian health care stands in ruinous shape. (The system) is so overburdened that hundreds of thousands in need of medical attention wait for care, any care; people in towns like Norwalk, Ontario, participate in lotteries to win appointments with the local family doctor. Canada isn’t the only country facing a government health care crisis. Britain’s system, once the postwar inspiration for many Western countries, is similarly plagued. Both countries trail the U.S. in five-year cancer survival rates, transplantation outcomes and other measures." (Ref. 1)

     In 2014, the problems with monopolistic, government run health care programs were highlighted with exposure of the Veteran’s Administration (VA) failures in Albuquerque. Veterans died because they were serviced by a single payer healthcare system – a government run, socialistic, health care system! Unfortunately, the problems with the VA have been repeated here in Massachusetts[2] where - as of 26 May 2020 - more than 90 veterans have died from the Coronavirus pandemic and the failings of a single payer healthcare system – a government run, socialistic, health care system!
     “. . . One of the problems with the VA has historically been the unreasonably long wait times for services. As {was} becoming apparent {in 2014 was that} the excessive wait times have been so long that veterans have had to suffer for weeks and months to receive treatment while some have died before they could receive treatment. {The problems were and still are} too many patients, not enough doctors, and not enough hospitals.” (Ref. 3)

     “. . . what happens when the government is providing the goods or service? The VA health system is the epitome of a government service. It is the liberals’ generation-long dream of a single-payer nationalized health care system. The government employs all the workers and pays all the bills. The veterans may think they are the customers, but they do not pay the bills. The people providing their health care know that they work for the government, not the veterans.
     “. . . This is how government-provided, nationalized health care works. It budgets money for a certain amount of service and then rations [Emphasis mine] that amount amongst its patients through a waiting system. Canada and Britain are both perfect examples of such health systems that apply to all citizens and the same sorts of tragic deaths occur in both countries thanks to the uncaring hand of government and the lack of a profit motive to encourage anybody to do better.
     “According to reports, the VA hospital in Albuquerque {had} eight cardiologists who between them see as many patients per week as a single private sector cardiologist would see in two days. The VA doctors get paid the same amount regardless of how many patients they see, so why should they work harder? Liberals may hate profits and the supposed greed it inspires, but profits would get those doctors working harder and could have saved the lives of sick veterans.
     “In the past . . ., the VA . . .spent hundreds of millions of dollars on furniture instead of hiring more doctors because seeing more patients and delivering better patient care did not bring in more money. If anything, government agencies can best gain budget increases by having problems since politicians seem to think that problems can be solved by throwing more money at them. In reality, problems are solved by allowing markets to work and by getting the incentives right.
     “Government agencies like the VA deliver bad service because they have no incentive to do any better. . ." (Ref. 4)

     The problems previously uncovered in the VA system in 2014 and which are currently being investigated here in Massachusetts are the same problems that apply to any government run, single payer healthcare system. And the primary victims of the system’s problems are the chronically ill, the critically ill and our senior citizens, those who are unable to obtain services elsewhere.

     What many people fail to understand is that there's a big difference between universal health care coverage and actual access to medical care.

     “Simply saying that people have health insurance is meaningless. Many countries provide universal insurance but deny critical procedures to patients who need them. Britain's Department of Health reported in 2006 that at any given time, nearly 900,000 Britons are waiting for admission to National Health Service {NHS} hospitals, and shortages force the cancellation of more than 50,000 operations each year. In Sweden, the wait for heart surgery can be as long as 25 weeks, and the average wait for hip replacement surgery is more than a year. Many of these individuals suffer chronic pain, and judging by the numbers, some will probably die awaiting treatment. . .
      - - -
     “As H. L. Mencken said: ‘For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, elegant, and wrong.’ Universal healthcare is a textbook case.” (Ref. 5)

     One of the persistent proponents of a government run American health care system has been the closet socialist, Bernie Sanders. “In late March of 2017, Sanders told CNN that he intended “to introduce legislation outlining a ‘Medicare-for-all, single-payer’ health care plan . . .
     " ‘Ideally, where we should be going is to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people as a right,’ Sanders said. ‘That's why I'm going to introduce a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program.’ “ (Ref. 6)

     An April 2020 editorial in the Los Angeles Times “declared it conventional wisdom that COVID-19 proves Bernie Sanders was right about ‘Medicare for All,’ because with universal health coverage, the government wouldn’t have to send emergency aid to ‘hospitals and state health programs.’

     “This assertion is completely false, however, and we know because billions in emergency aid from the federal government is precisely what’s happening in Canada. [Emphasis mine]
     “Canada is experiencing a surge in serious COVID-19 cases . . .
      - - -
     “Like the U.S., Canada began to see widespread shortages in health-related supplies, from masks and personal protective equipment to testing reagents and vaccine manufacturing capacity.
     “Also like the U.S., the overarching concern in Canada has been ‘bending the curve’ of infections, using compulsory social distancing mandates . . .
     “Finally, like the U.S. and contrary to the Los Angeles Times, Canada’s federal government has committed to billions for cash-strapped health agencies and hospitals across the country, with intense pressure for more.
     “Indeed, that spending sparked a bitter showdown in Parliament as the opposition balked at the government’s request to spend ‘all money required to do anything.’
     “What gives Canada such urgency to keep the infection curve down is that, going on decades now, the single dominating feature of Canadian health care is shortages. [Emphasis mine]
     “As early as March 20 {2020}, Reuters news service quoted the chief of staff of one of Ontario’s newest hospitals as saying, ‘You’ve got people in broom closets and auditoriums and conference rooms across the country.’
     “Even in normal times, the average wait in Canada from referral to treatment by a specialist is 20 weeks, compared to less than four weeks in the U.S. Long before COVID-19, an estimated 1 million Canadians languished on waiting lists, waiting in pain or flying abroad for faster treatment. [Emphasis mine]
     “Canadians long have faced shortages and lengthy waits for MRIs and ultrasounds while being forced to use outdated and cheaper drugs. Canadian emergency rooms have been packed for years, with four-hour waits running three times the U.S. level and four-hour waits standard in Quebec province.
      - - -
     “These shortages mean there is very little spare capacity in Canada to handle any surge in emergency treatment. The concern is most acute for beds in intensive care units, the kind needed to treat critical COVID-19 cases.
     “Per capita, Canada has one-third as many ICU beds as the U.S. . . . In some provinces, including Alberta and British Columbia, ICU beds number fewer per capita than Iran.
     “Given these problems, ‘bending the curve’ of coronavirus infections becomes an existential priority for Canada. There is very little talk of reopening the Canadian economy anytime soon, simply because the spare critical care infrastructure is not there.
      - - -
     “Unfortunately, at this point, there is little Canada can do. The private health care sector for critical care is atrophied, largely banned by a monopoly public sector that long has cut corners to save money.
     “Thousands of retired doctors and nurses have volunteered heroically to return to work, but there essentially is no private sector to ramp up capacity quickly. Canadians are left to hope for the best as the slow machinery of the public health system grinds on.
     “Too little too late, Canada is doing what it can to bring in the private sector. Emergency deregulations are spreading across health care, from scope of practice to product licensing, while private operators finally are getting limited permission to operate in telemedicine.
     “But 50 years of government management of essential health care has left Canada with far less capacity and far fewer resources than it needs in this crisis.
     “As for Medicare for All, the COVID-19 crisis in Canada has shown the brutal consequences of government-run health care: shortages just when you need care the most. ” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 7)

     While most Canadians may be proponents of their form of socialized Medicine – many others are not. Most rational Americans would find Canadian health care unacceptable. For additional relevant reading on this issue, see References 8, 9 and 10. While the U.S. health system is “a bit of a mess,” expensive and non-universal, it excels in medical technology innovation, has few delays, and good outcomes for patients. Canada, on the other hand, has profound “access problems,” so that nearly one in five Canadian patients wait four months or more for elective surgery.[11] For well-off Canadians, frustrated by long wait times and rationing where they live, they come to the United States for medical care – guess why! Also, health care is not entirely free for Canadians. Dental, ambulance and many other services as well as prescription medications must be paid for out of pocket or they're covered through a combination of public programs and private health insurance. About two-thirds of Canadians have such insurance.

     While most Canadians will extol the virtues of their health care system, “there is the fact that Canada’s single-payer system is made possible only by an accident of geography: It is propped up by the U.S. health-care industry next door, which provides a parallel private system for very sick and very rich Canadians while acting as the driving force for global medical innovation.
      - - -
     “In other words, Canada’s rigid state monopoly on health insurance works only because Canadians secretly have a private alternative: America’s market-based system. . .
     “Canadians might like their single-payer health-care system in theory, but in practice, large numbers of them are going elsewhere for care.” (Ref. 12) While most Canadians publicly profess to like their socialized medicine system, their private feelings are in doubt. Would most Americans prefer a socialized single payer system similar to that of our northern neighbor? Except for the Bernie Sanders of our country, such a preference is extremely unlikely. Instead of throwing out the baby with the bath water and switching to a socialistic, government run, single-payer health care system, what would be a more palatable solution to existing problems with America’s health care system would be fixes and upgrades to our largely successful existing free-market system of health care.


  1. Canada’s Crisis, David Gratzer, M.D., Forbes, Pg 22, 6 October 2008.
  2. Suspended superintendent at Holyoke Soldiers' Home did not keep officials in the dark, attorney says,
    Arielle Mitropoulos and Ella Torres, abc NEWS, 26 May 2020.
  3. Get in Line and Wait Your Turn, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 192, 16 June 2014.
  4. VA Scandal Shows How Government Works, Jeffrey Dorfman, Forbes, 24 May 2014.
  5. Universal healthcare's dirty little secrets , Michael Tanner and Michael Cannon, Los Angeles Times ,
    5 April 2007.
  6. In wake of GOP failure on health care, Sanders to push single-payer option, Eleanor Mueller, CNN politics,
    29 March 2017.
  7. Canada’s Government-Run Health Care Buckles Under COVID-19, Peter St. Onge, The Daily Signal,
    15 April 2020.
  8. Single Payer Health Care, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 289, 11 May 2017.
  9. Americare, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 290, 18 May 2017.
  10. America’s Health Care - 2019, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 347, 3 January 2019.
  11. Is Canadian health care as great as we like to think?, CTV News, 29 October 2017.
  12. The Pitfalls of Single-Payer Health Care: Canada’s Cautionary Tale, Candice Malcolm, National Review,
    13 April 2017.


  4 June 2020 {Article 416; Govt_84}    
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