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Canada’s health system beats U.S. in cost and results

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Snapshot for December 5, 2007.

Canada’s health system beats U.S. in cost and results

by Ross Eisenbrey

When the Clinton administration tackled health care reform in 1993, Canada’s national health care system—which operates without a private insurance industry—was held up as a model by progressives and a disaster by conservatives.  The United States rejected any positive lessons from the Canadian single-payer model in 1993, and we are living with the results of that decision today.

As the chart below reveals, the cost gap between the United States and Canada has only widened since 1993, and per capita health care expenditures in the United States are now almost double those in Canada ($6,401 vs. $3,359).  Canada’s per capita health expenditures rose about 65% from 1993 to 2005, while costs in the United States rose by over 90%. 

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Per-capita expenditures on health care in Canada and United States

Yet infant mortality in the United States is higher and life expectancy at birth is less than in Canada. It is also noteworthy that despite Canada’s much lower expenditures on health care, Canadians consult with physicians far more often than do Americans.  The average number of physician consultations per capita was 6.0 in Canada, versus 3.8 in the United States.1

1.  Download the following OECD document for source data on physician consultations:

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