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Letter: Canadian health model would work in America

Canadian health model would work in America

Fifty years ago, Canada replaced its private health insurance morass with single payer, universal, tax-funded basic health care insurance without deductibles or copays. At that time, insurance interests fought using the same arguments we’re hearing: Socialism is bad; overwhelming costs will destroy the economy; quality of care will plummet.

So, how is Canada doing five decades later? Just fine! Personal bankruptcy due to medical expenses is unheard of, and annual health care expenditures per capita are half of those in the U.S., with top-quality care and better results. Canada’s overhead administrative costs are less than 2 percent while in the U.S. they are nearly 20 percent. As for the “overwhelming” tax burden, comparing Ontario and New York is somewhat difficult since our tax code is riddled with special exemptions and hidden breaks for special interests, but in most income brackets, you will find minor difference. But then we still need to pay for our private insurance premiums, deductibles and copays, and that is a huge “tax” paid by both individuals and businesses that offer subsidized insurance as employee benefits, but are paid to financial institutions instead of to the public benefit.

If single payer works so well right across the Niagara River, why couldn’t it work here? During the original NAFTA negotiations, the U.S. argued that Canada’s universal health insurance was an unfair advantage, while at the same time arguing that it would crush our economy if enacted here. Does anyone see a contradiction?

Richard Clements


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