Canadian Healthcare: Better and cheaper?

November 20, 2013, 2:22 PM GMT+0

Americans tend to say that healthcare in Canada is both better and cheaper than in the United States, though Republicans are skeptical that Canadian healthcare is any better than it is here.

With all the difficulties plaguing the rollout of the new health care law and the fears Americans haver expressed about what will happen to their own health care under the Affordable Care Act, some Americans may be casting an envious eye at other countries and their health care —including the health of our neighbor to the north. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, 42% of Americans think that Canadians get better health care than Americans do – and 45% believe they pay less for it.

The Canadian single payer system is funded by its government (the single payer), with services provided by private suppliers. During the debate over the Affordable Care Act, the Canadian system was both praised as a possible model and castigated as socialized medicine. The difficulties with the Obamacare rollout have revived the single-payer argument, both pro and con.

Opinions about Canadian health care reflect the earlier debate that led to the Affordable Care Act: more than half of Democrats believe that Canadians get better health care, while 45% of Republicans disagree. But Republicans and Democrats generally agree that individual health care costs are lower in Canada.

Fewer Americans have opinions about the health care system in the other countries outside Canada, but those with opinions generally think that individual costs are lower elsewhere. By two to one, Americans say people in England, France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan pay less – not more – when it comes to health care expenses than people in the United States do. By five to one, they believe costs in Mexico are lower, not higher, than in the U.S.

Perceptions of the quality of care elsewhere varies, and more than half the public believes Mexico’s low costs may lead to worse care. Switzerland scores well when Americans compare health care quality to that in the U.S., and other European countries like Germany, England and France do slightly less well. Perceptions of Japanese health care are generally positive, while Mexico's healthcare is widely seen as being worse than in the U.S.

Of course, some of these countries have universal coverage, as Canada does. In Germany, there is compulsory coverage, either through government plans or through private insurance funded through employer and employee contributions. France provides national health insurance through a central fund run by employers and workers' groups. England has a National Health Service where all doctors are salaried employees of the government. Asking about these three countries, Republicans and Democrats disagree on whether care is better or worse, sometimes dramatically. Switzerland requires insurance coverage; Democrats overwhelmingly think health care is better there, while Republicans are divided.

Nearly half the public has no opinion about the Japanese health system.

But there is no disagreement between the parties when it comes to the perceptions that Mexican health care is worse than in the United States.

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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