A couple of Canadian researchers caution Americans about being too ready to admire the Canadian system. A big problem—wait times:
These wait times are not simply “minor inconveniences.” Patients experience physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, and lost economic productivity while waiting for treatment. One recent estimate (2013) found that the value of time lost due to medical wait times in Canada amounted to approximately $1,200 per patient.
There is also considerable evidence indicating that excessive wait times lead to poorer health outcomes and in some cases, death. Dr. Brian Day, former head of the Canadian Medical Association recently noted that “[d]elayed care often transforms an acute and potentially reversible illness or injury into a chronic, irreversible condition that involves permanent disability.”
New research also suggests that wait times for medically necessary procedures may be associated with increased mortality. A recent report concluded that between 25,456 and 63,090 Canadian women may have died as a result of increased wait times between 1993 and 2009. Large as this number is, it doesn’t even begin to quantify the possibility of increased disability, poorer quality of life, and mental stress as a result of protracted wait times.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that Canadians who can afford it always have the U. S. healthcare system as a recourse. IMO any analysis of the Canadian system should take that into account.
While I think that the Canadian system overall is a good comparison for the U. S. system IMO there are a couple of things we should keep in mind. First, the Canadian system didn’t start off as a federal system and still isn’t a federal system. It’s a provincial system. Second, as a JAMA study I’ve mentioned from time to time points out, administrative costs in the Canadian system aren’t as low as some Americans seem to think they are. About 15% IIRC. That’s better than here but it doesn’t provide the savings it would take to cover everybody under a single-payer system without paying a considerable amount more than we do now.