Canada Inspires California’s Massive Medicare Plan

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
Font Size:

Despite chronic wait times for virtually all types of operations and persistent doctor shortages, Canada is doling out advice to California on how to enact its own single-payer, universal healthcare system, the National Post reports.

California began the first leg of the legislative path last week with the approval of the state’s health committee to proceed with the bill. The example cited for the goal of taxpayer-funded healthcare was that great democracy to the north.

California senators came to Canada in mid-March to see how it’s done but they might have selected the most dysfunctional healthcare jurisdiction as the basis of their fact-finding mission: Ontario. The province is in the midst of a healthcare crisis at the moment, with health minister Eric Hoskins the butt of both jokes and criticism that all add up to daily calls that he either resign or be fired.

San Francisco state senator Scott Wiener declared healthcare gurus in Ontario and neighboring Quebec “enthusiastically supportive” of California’s initiative.

“It made me feel better about what we’re doing,” he told the National Post. “We learned it’s not just some fairy-tale, unattainable system that Canada has … People were really earnest about trying to give us advice about what to do and what to avoid.”

California senators Ricardo Lara, the bill’s sponsor, Wiener and Nancy Skinner met with government officials and doctors in Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal.

“The real issue for me is ‘Can someone get urgent or critical care when they need it,’ and my impression from the meetings is that is delivered,” Skinner said. “In the U.S., that is achieved if you have money, but not if you don’t.”

It was nonetheless “lovely” that all Canadians seemingly believe that healthcare is a “fundamental human right,” said Skinner.

California is adamantly opposed to the repeal and replacement of Obamacare and wants to establish its own state-run plan. Canada, with a population about equal to the Golden State and that seems to grow at the same rate is also a jurisdiction that features a prominent urban-rural divide, with liberals dominating in the big cities and conservatives ruling the rural areas.

California wants to go even farther with its Medicare scheme than Canada, one that covers medical, dental, mental health and even vision and nursing home services. The price tag could be an astronomical $250 billion a year — for state already facing huge debt problems.

The Canadian Medicare apologists told their California guests that provinces spend an average of half their budgets on healthcare. Even spendthrift Governor Jerry Brown finds those figures daunting.

The California Chamber of Commerce has already declared the idea a “job killer” that will mean huge payroll taxes and the death of the health insurance industry.

Some Canadians are urging California to take a closer look at the Canadian healthcare experience. The Canadian Constitution Foundation, conservative activists who are currently assisting a for-profit clinic challenge the government’s ban on private healthcare, says the Canadian system should not be held up as a model for California or anyone else.

“I hope that they are also looking at the overwhelming evidence of the failures of our system,” said executive director Howard Anglin. “What they could expect, based on our experience in Canada, is hundreds of thousands or millions of patients on unacceptable wait lists, with no outlet and no option to seek care while they’re suffering.”

Where they do go to alleviate that suffering is often border states with private healthcare.

Follow David on Twitter