Americans Flee America For Overseas Health Care Just Like Canadians

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I’d forgotten all about this, but tonight was the date of the great Ted Cruz-Bernie Sanders debate. Apparently Cruz decided to haul out the old chestnut about Canadians fleeing en masse to the US for health care, which just proves how crappy government-run medicine is.

Lots of people are pointing out that this isn’t really true, but I want to point out something different: Americans flee the US in pretty similar numbers to Canadians fleeing Canada. The best numbers we have suggest that about 45,000 Canadians left the country for medical care in 2015. (That’s all destinations, not just the US.) Meanwhile, about 250,000 Americans left the US for medical care abroad. And these numbers don’t even count the number of Americans who get their prescription drugs from overseas.

Overall, then, that’s about 0.13 percent of Canadians and 0.08 percent of Americans who flee their countries for health care. Those are pretty similar numbers. The only real difference is the reason for leaving. Canadians mostly cite wait times for elective surgery. Americans mostly cite the high cost of medical treatment.

So you see, every kind of health care system has its own problems. Canada’s is bad for rich people who can afford to pay top dollar to get faster service. America’s is bad for poor people, who would go bankrupt if they paid American prices. Check your moral compass and take your pick.

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