Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Is Socialized Medicine as Bad as it Sounds?

February 12, 2021 · No Comments · Health Care Systems, Uncategorized

Many Americans immediately assume the worst when they hear the words “Socialized Medicine”. Americans are fed horror stories about how individuals in countries that have socialized medicine have to wait months or even years to see a doctor or how the treatments they are seeking aren’t even available in those countries. With little knowledge of how healthcare systems work, Americans are forced to believe the outrageous stories they hear about socialized medicine. However, when taking a closer look, is socialized medicine as bad as it sounds?

Canada, America’s neighbor to the north, is a country with a strong socialized medical system. Canada has a decentralized, publicly funded health system called Canadian Medicare. Canadian Medicare is available to all citizens and permanent residents of Canada and is funded through taxes. The system covers basic medical services, and some of the services not included are prescription medications, dental care, and ambulance service. A majority of Canadians use supplemental private insurance that they purchase on top of their Canadian Medicare to cover the costs of services not covered.

The American health care system is vastly different to the Canadian health care system. America’s health care system is America’s largest industry, and Americans are mostly covered through employer sponsored private health insurance plans. Americans who are not employed or live at or below the poverty line qualify for American Medicaid which covers basic medical services. Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010, private insurance has become available to everyone, but often times it is still not affordable. As of 2019, approximately 10 percent of Americans are still uninsured.

There are several pros of the Canadian Medicare system. One major positive result of the system is that all Canadian citizens and permanent residents have access to basic health care. Individuals don’t have to worry about losing coverage if they change or lose their job, and because the system offers the same basic care to everyone, Canadians are able to choose their providers. Most Americans are limited to providers than are in network with their insurance plans. Prescription medications on average are a lot more affordable under the Canadian Medicare system. Overall, the Canadian Medicare systems provides more equitable care to its citizens when compared to the American system.

While there are several pros to the Canadian Medicare system there are also some cons. There are often wait times for non-emergency or elective surgeries and/or procedures, and wait times vary depending on the surgery or procedure. Canada has fewer physicians and inpatient beds per 1000 people than most other OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. The comparison to the OECD is particularly relevant because OECD members are among the most developed nations in the world. Because the Canadian Medicare system is funded through taxes, Canadian citizens and residents pay higher taxes than Americans. Another drawback is that Canadian Medicare only covers basic medical services, some care is not covered, and obtaining supplemental coverage to cover services not considered basic can be costly.

              The American health care system, like the Canadian health care system, has many benefits. Americans accessing the health care system have access to an array of procedures and surgeries, often without having to wait. The American health care system is mostly funded through private insurance, and when it comes to choosing a private insurance plan there are many different plans with different options. Americans who have the money to pay for insurance premiums have access to some of the greatest care in the world. Another pro of the American health care system is it has the ability to provide advanced surgical procedures and state of the art treatments not available in other countries.

              There are many cons of the American health care system that require the system to make a change. One major drawback of the system is that health care services are very expensive, and if one is uninsured or underinsured, they might not get the care they need. Many Americans who are uninsured or underinsured forego medical treatment until their illness or condition becomes extreme. Treating an extreme illness is much more costly than preventative care. The US health care system is very wasteful; every year doctors order thousands of unnecessary tests and procedures, wasting money and resources. The American health care system spends more money than any other health care system in the world, and yet has worse health outcomes than other comparable countries that spend less. A final con of the American health care system is that Americans who live in rural areas have less access to healthcare and services than Americans who live in urban and metropolitan areas.

              As you can see, no health care system is perfect. Each system has its pros and cons and each system needs changes. Unfortunately, some of the cons weigh more heavily than others: like the fact that the American system is very expensive and people who cannot afford care often times go without. America should look to its neighbor to the north to help improve its health care system.

For more information on Canadian Medicare visit the following websites:


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