Harvard study says Canadians get better healthcare than US at lower cost
Canadians healthier than Americans, study says
Updated Tue. May. 30 2006 5:07 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Canadians are healthier and have better access to health care than U.S. residents. And, according to a new study, Canadians obtain better care for half of what Americans spend on their medical system.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, was conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers. They also found that:
Canadians were seven per cent more likely to have a regular doctor
Canadians were 19 per cent less likely than Americans to have their health needs go unmet.
Americans were more than twice as likely to forgo needed medicines because of cost.
Discrepancies in health care become even wider when taking into account income, age, sex, race and immigrant status. In those kind of detailed comparisons, Canadians were 33 per cent more likely to have a regular doctor and 27 per cent less likely to have an unmet health need.
Meanwhile, Americans had higher rates of nearly every serious chronic disease, including obesity, diabetes and chronic lung disease, even though U.S. residents were less likely to be smokers.
"We pay almost twice what Canada does for care, more than $6,000 for every American, yet Canadians are healthier, and live two to three years longer," said Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor at Harvard and study co-author.
This first-ever cross-national health survey analyzed data from the Joint Canada/U.S. Survey of Health, with data collected by Statistics Canada and the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.
It follows a similar study released earlier this month that found white, middle-aged Americans were less healthy than their British counterparts, who spent half as much on health care.
In the latest study, the researchers suggest the biggest barrier to health care in the United States is cost.
More than seven times as many U.S. residents reported going without needed care due to cost, compared to Canadians.
Uninsured U.S. residents were particularly vulnerable, with 30.4 per cent reported having an unmet health need due to cost, the study reported.
Wait times not a factor in study
Lead author Dr. Karen Lasser said that, while Canada gets negative press about long wait times for medical procedures, the health system seems to work better.
"No one ever talks about the fact that low-income and minority patients fare better in Canada," said Lasser, a primary care doctor at Cambridge Health Alliance and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. "Based on our findings, if I had to choose between the two systems for my patients, I would choose the Canadian system hands down."
Dr. Raisa Deber of the University of Toronto said the message of the study is that "the sky is not falling."
"The take-home message is: When you compare Canada to the United States, Canada is spending a lot less money to get better results," said Deber, who specializes in health policy, management and evaluation.
"There are small improvement in places that could be fixed and could be made better. But on average the system is working quite well."
I'm not worried about comparing us to what could be the worst health care system amongst developed nations. No big surprise. Compare us to the other systems and see what shows. The health care debate too often devolves into a debate that presumes there are only two designs.
Americans have higher per capita health costs because they are greater consumers of health care than we are.
What part of
the biggest barrier to health care in the United States is cost.
don't you understand?
Americans aren't paying more for health care because they consume more, they're paying more to sustain the profits of the HMOs.
These same HMOs would love to expand into the Canadian market, and they're supporting the conservative politicians who are most sympathetic to their cause. Fortunately, so far, privatization balloons floated by conservatives like Ralph Klein have met with very little support.
However, with Harper and his ilk getting increasingly well-established federally, the HMOs are certainly enjoying a much more inviting political landscape in Canada.
I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some more cleverly-crafted, seemingly benign, 'solutions' to the 'crisis' in our public health-care system proposed by our new conservative rulers.
HMO profits jumped 52%
Higher premiums, state reserve laws push margins higher
By Kristen Gerencher, CBS.MarketWatch.com
Last Update: 3:02 PM ET May 4, 2004
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Managed-care companies look financially healthy lately: A sample of 528 found that profits increased 52 percent during the first nine months of last year from a year earlier on the strength of higher premiums, according to a new study.
Health maintenance organizations' profits jumped to $6.7 billion in the first three quarters of 2003, up from $4.4 billion in 2002, according to a Weiss Ratings study of financial statements filed with state insurance departments. The figure is the highest for the period since Weiss began looking at HMOs' quarterly statements in 1995, senior analyst Donna O'Rourke said.
It wasn't long ago that managed-care companies with fewer reserves were going out of business, she said. The group swung to a collective loss in 1997, when losses were $530 million on an aggregate basis, and continued losing money in 1998 before returning to profitability in 1999, O'Rourke said.
"They've definitely come around the corner," she said.
Companies' higher profits are a mixed blessing for plan members, O'Rourke said. "People don't want to keep seeing a rise in premiums and reductions in benefits, but you also want your health plan to be in good shape," she said.
Health-care premiums have been rising in double digit percentage rates for three consecutive years. Workers pay on average $2,412 per year toward the premium for family coverage and $508 per year toward the premium for individual coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
State insurance departments also have begun setting reserve standards for health insurers, as they do for life and property-casualty insurance companies, causing many managed-care firms to phase in plans to bolster their funds, O'Rourke said.
Making the biggest gains
The companies showing the most net income growth during the first nine months of 2003 compared with that of 2002 were, according to Weiss Ratings:
WellCare of New York -- profit up 32,575 percent to $3.89 million, up from $11,900.
Aetna Healthcare of Texas -- a 9,724 percent jump to $46 million, up from $468,792.
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Ohio -- an increase of 3,467 percent to $25 million, up from $701,392.
Health Plus of Michigan -- a jump of 2,434 percent to $5.5 million, up from $220,235.
HMO Health Plans of Colorado -- profit rose 2,295 percent to $828,974, up from $34,600.
They're much higher now, but it is a VERY large stretch to say their profits are the problem.
There are many things going on, including a fundamentally different system. Again, there are more than two systems out there and the diagonosis of what is wrong with that one system is not as simple as made out. It is a fundamentally different system.
Costing more, delivering less - sorry we're not talking apples and oranges. - the US system sucks and the study and the doctors behind the study who are in an ideal position to assess lay that out in no uncertain terms.
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