Medicare For All – Lessons From Canada

Long waits for procedures are common in Canada; Montana offers same day service. 

Medicare For All – Lessons From Canada

By: George Noga – December 8, 2019 

           Regular readers know we spend our summers in Whitefish, Montana – 50 miles from Canada and only four hours from Calgary and its 1.3 million souls; altogether two million Canadians live within an easy drive. Neighboring Albertans, flush with petrodollars, descend on us every summer. They come for the world-class attractions of Whitefish and Glacier National Park. They come for cheap prices vis-a-vis Canada. They come for weddings, which cost 50% less due to Canada’s sky-high alcohol taxes. They also come for medical care to escape rationing and long wait lists at home. 

          I have made it a point for 15 summers to ask our northern visitors how satisfied they are with the Canada Health Act (“CHA”), the name of Canada’s national health care. Out of scores I have queried, only two said they were satisfied. The first liked the care in Canada but comes to Montana when the wait lists are too long. The second defended CHA by asserting it was good at triage, i.e. if you were mired on a long wait list and your condition deteriorated, they would move you up on the list.  

        There are long waits for procedures in Canada, while Montana offers same day service. Some Canadian medical refugees are so desperate they pay out-of-pocket at great sacrifice. I have heard many heart-wrenching stories about CHA and most of my Canadian interlocutors passionately forewarn me against the USA adopting Canada’s style of socialized medicine. The data should scare the bejesus out of Americans. 


         The median wait time between referral and treatment in Canada is over 21 weeks, 42 weeks in some provinces and a staggering 4 years in extreme cases. The wait for a CAT scan is 11 weeks and increasing; there are no waits whatsoever in Montana. An average US city has more MRI machines than all of Canada. At any given time, over 1 million Canadians (3% of the population) are in line. The long waits are not just inconvenient; they often transform potentially reversible conditions into chronic or permanent disabilities. “Free” medical care is not much good if you can’t get it.  


         The free medical care is anything but free. Canada’s confiscatory taxation results in high living costs; that’s why Canadians flock to Montana to load up their SUVs. The federal income tax is 29%; provincial income taxes are 15% to 20%; health care is 6% and a 13% VAT is embedded in all purchases. The grand total is 64% to 68%. Canada also is a nanny state that doesn’t want its children, err citizens, drinking and imposes alcohol taxes that make cocktails 600% more expensive than in Montana.  


         Americans can learn much from the disaster that is Canada’s national health care. Whenever anything is in great demand, it must be rationed via either time or cost. Since healthcare is free, it can’t be rationed via cost; that leaves time. BINGO!  

        How comforting it must be for Canadians to know if their medical condition goes to hell in a handbasket, they could be moved ahead of some of the other one million desperate souls waiting in line for treatment – that is instantly available in Montana.  

On December 15th, we reprise the greatest Christmas story in American history. 

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