Misinformation on Canada

| Mon Jun. 20, 2005 4:59 PM EDT

Matthew Holt has a great post on "the misinformation campaign about Canadian health care." It's true, every time the health care debate emerges, and people start clamoring for national health care, right-wingers flock to the scene with faux-horror stories about the Canadian system, most of it false. In fact, Canadians get equal or better health care outcomes for far less money than we do. Now I'm not convinced that there are big savings on spending to be had for the United States by switching to single-payer, but it's certainly not going to be a catastrophe. Far from it—the 61 million Americans who currently have no or inadequate insurance will finally get coverage. That alone is worth the price of admission.

The other point we tend to forget is that America has an advantage that comes with being stuck in the Paleolithic age of health care: namely, that if and when we decide to overhaul the whole system and move to single-payer, technocrats in Washington can look at what other countries have done, observe what works and what doesn't, and design our system with an eye towards improving on those experiments abroad. We don't have to do everything exactly like Canada. If we think some people should be allowed to have private insurance to pay for new and experimental treatments, fine, we can model that feature on France's system, which allows private insurance. If we think that Britain spends too little on certain types of treatment, fine, we can spend more. And so on. If Canada's system has problems, why not look to see how they can be improved or fixed, rather than simply shuttering the whole project?