Why Canada’s system does and doesn’t work

Susan Taylor Martin of the St. Petersburg Times explored Canada’s universal health care system, seeking to dispel rumors and misconceptions and explain the good (cheap, efficient) and bad (waiting lists) of a much-debated but rarely explained system. Each Canadian province has its own system, and rates are set through negotiations between medical organizations and local physicians.
The example of Dr. Diane Normandin, in particular, showed the stark contrast in efficiency between the American system and the Canadian one.

She moved to Clearwater, Fla., in 1994 because she thought U.S. doctors had more freedom. But she spent an inordinate amount of time trying to tell whether a patient’s insurance covered visits to a particular lab or specialist.
“You had maybe five minutes with the patient but 20 minutes of paperwork and the ridiculous sorting out of where the patient could go,” said Normandin, who needed six employees to handle the workload. “It was crazy.”
She returned to Canada in 2003 and opened a family practice near Montreal. She now has one employee.

Taylor Martin also tackles the word “socialist” and explains the other factors that go into Canada’s much-maligned waiting lists, as well as attempts being made to decrease those delays.

A sidebar focuses on a Canadian cardiologist who joined a practice in Orlando, Fla., because he thought U.S. doctors had more freedom. He also eventually returned to Canada and is  now critical of the U.S. system. Among his criticisms: “He found that American doctors tend to order more testing, partly for fear of being sued but also because ‘patients demand it and doctors and hospitals want to do it because it’s more money.'”

Other stories in the project:

(Hat tip to Investigate West)

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