Publicly funded healthcare works in Canada — why not here?


By Jim Matthews

The United States pays more for its health care than any other country in the world. And what do we get for that expense?

In a 2014 Commonwealth Fund report, the U.S. ranked last among 11 industrialized countries in healthy lives, among other measures. There have been many other measures that have shown the U.S. ranks far lower than many other countries in the quality of health care.

(This does not mean this country does not excel in many aspects of health care. Cancer care has been one area the U.S. is noted to be leading the world.)

Is this something the people of this country are willing to tolerate any longer? As this country considers peeling away the protections of the Affordable Care Act, the response of many seems to be no. As the rules set forth under that act are threatened, many are saying they are not willing to let go of these protections.

Is the Affordable Care Act a perfect piece of legislation? Far from it. The ACA was not even a half measure toward providing health care that meets minimum standards. It was what then-President Barack Obama could hope to get passed. And it continues to show its imperfections to this day.

I invite you to look at the health-care system of our neighbor to the north. Canada provides a publicly funded health care system called Medicare. This is mostly free at the point of use. Most of the funding is through income taxes.

Some services are not covered. Canadians can buy supplemental insurance for those services not covered by Medicare. In most areas, Canada has a surplus of physicians.

So what are their outcomes? Canadian healthcare ranked 30th out of 191, and the U.S. ranked 37th. The overall health of Canadians ranked 35th and Americans ranked 72nd. These are broad measures and cannot be used to gain a tight comparison.

But I believe some broad interpretations can be made. The American healthcare system does not work for many Americans. And it is too costly.

The move by the current administration to return our system to a largely private enterprise will only make our healthcare more costly and will likely lead to poorer outcomes.

So what is the solution? I have little concern with largely dismantling the Affordable Care Act. However, this has to be in favor of a system of Medicare for all.

Again, this is an imperfect system, and it will take many years to improve upon the system. However, it is the quickest and simplest way to move to a single payer-system that works in many of the industrialized countries in the world.

We can continue to pretend to be a unique player on the world stage. We can continue to pretend we have all the answers while the rest of the world has none. But in that process we will become an ever poorer and sicker nation. We will continue to go headlong into an abyss from which we may never recover.

Jim Matthews is a longtime resident of Greenfield. Send comments to

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Publicly funded healthcare works in Canada — why not here?

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