I am a Canadian who has travelled frequently to the U.S. for decades. I like the people and I like their country and obviously that is why I keep going back. Americans have always struck me as courageous innovators who do everything on a grand scale. I still remember my first time in San Francisco and being impressed by the sheer scale and volume of everything. I remember thinking to myself that Americans really know how to build and know how to live and that it was no accident that they became a global superpower. In addition to their material accomplishments, I have also found Americans in general to be very hospitable, helpful, and decent.
I believe that much of the success of the U.S. can be attributed to their commitment to strong free-market principles and the idea that hard work and innovation will be rewarded. This is all obvious and easy to understand. I wonder, though, if there is a way to make it even more successful. What if more Americans were free to take risks by engaging in entrepreneurial behaviour? What if companies, instead of having to provide healthcare for their workers, could spend that money on innovation and other things designed to increase competiveness?
As a Canadian, I have never had to give much consideration to healthcare. I take it for granted - like air or water. Healthcare never factors into any employment or business decision. An employer has to pay next to nothing to provide healthcare coverage for its workers. This leaves money on the table for pensions, wages, and equipment upgrades. It enables young workers to take entrepreneurial risks without the fear of losing their healthcare. It allows ambitious workers to take chances on supervisory or management positions without having to worry about failing at it and ending up without healthcare coverage. If you really wanted to turbo-charge a free-market economy then you might do it by throwing universal public healthcare into the mix.
The quality of our Canadian healthcare system is pretty good. At the very high end, the American system probably produces better outcomes. For most - probably 90% - of the population, the Canadian system works beautifully and likely has better outcomes than the American system. The Canadian system is also more efficient and costs less overall to run. The Canadian system is also very user friendly. I have been to the hospital once for a broken ankle and two other times, each for a separated shoulder. I did not have to fill out any forms or choose between differently priced services. I left each time without having to pay a penny. I have had MRIs and CT scans and consulted with surgeons - again without filling out any forms or parting with any money. My doctor can choose the tests or procedures that he feels are best for my health and he pays no attention to costs or insurance plans. The whole system is designed around the patient.
I think that the U.S. could go a step further and implement a good quality public healthcare system and leave the high-end private services in place. This really would be the best of both worlds. If they did this, they could quite possibly end up with the best healthcare system in the world.
It will be no easy task to implement a public system. It would be a historic and game changing accomplishment though. There was also a fight in Canada when our public system was introduced in the mid 1900s. It took some time to get it going and it had its share of trouble; but, it has been refined, streamlined, and reworked and it's now a system that a very high percentage of Canadians are very proud of and also very happy with. In fact, threatening to take away public healthcare is probably the only thing that would get your average Canadian worked up enough to fight.