There are many ways to compare different health care systems.  The 2010 World Health Statistics report from the World Health Organization (WHO) measures many factors in various countries around the world.


Is cost the best measure of quality health care?  Health care costs in Canada are 61% of the cost in the United States.  In the United States in 2008 we paid $7,285 per person for health care.  While Canada paid $4,409 per person.  And as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product(GDP), health care costs are 5.6% more of our total economic output.  Government spending equaled 46.2% of all health care spending.  Private spending equaled 53.8% of spending.  22.6% of private spending on health care was out of pocket expenses paid for by the insured.  That means 12.2% of total health care spending was out of pocket from people with private insurance.  Health insurance paid for through an employer uses pretax dollars, and avoids payroll and income taxes for the employer and the employee, an estimated $200 Billion dollars in lost tax revenue in 2007.  This accounts for another 8.9% of total health care spending.

Is life expectancy the best measure?  Life expectancy in the United States is 78.3 years.  In Canada life expectancy is 80.7 years.  Canadians live 2.4 years longer than Americans.

Is infant mortality the best measure of good health care?  Infant mortality measures the number of babies that die for every 1,000 live births.  In the United States it is 7 deaths per 1,000.  In Canada it is 5 deaths per 1,000 births.

Perhaps emergency room wait times measure the quality of health care.  The Press Ganey’s Pulse Report 2010 shows the average length of stay in U.S. emergency rooms was 4 hours, 7 minutes.  A Canadian analysis in 2007 shows the median length of stay was just under 4 hours.  The average and the median can have different values for the same set of data, but they are usually close.  Let’s assume you visit the emergency room 100 times in your life and each time you wait an extra 4 hours.  That is a total of 400 hours or about 17 days waiting for emergency treatment.  But in Canada you could live 2.4 years longer or about 876 days.

Is cancer survival a good measure of quality health care?  The United States has the world’s best five year survival rate for breast and prostate cancer.  Japan has the highest survival rates for men with colon or rectal cancer.  France had the highest survival rates for women with colon or rectal cancer.

Single payer health care systems perform better than the United States health care system in many key areas.  Preventive medicine is a key focus in single payer systems.  Our health care system needs to keep Americans healthy, not just provide catastrophic care when we get sick or injured.  Healthy people cost less and live longer.

We do not need to have a single payer system to learn from them.  Coverage for everybody, so that medical conditions don’t get out of control and raise costs in later years of life.  Preventive medicine and best practices that keep costs down.  Computerized health care records to avoid duplications and reduce administrative costs.

This article is an excerpt of Eric Wilson’s groundbreaking new book, What You Don’t Know Can Hurt America: A Voter’s Guide.

Purchase the e-book here.

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About The Author

Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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