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Using Canada's Health System as Model Might Cut U.S. Costs: Study
Date:10/30/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Since 1980, health care costs in the United States could have been about $2.15 trillion less if Canadian cost-saving measures had been used, according to a new study.

Over the same period, health care spending in the United States grew nearly three times faster than in Canada's Medicare program, even though Canadian law bans co-payments and deductibles, the City University of New York researchers noted.

"Canada's Medicare program has been much more successful in controlling costs than the U.S. Medicare program," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor in CUNY's School of Public Health.

Many factors play into the difference, Woolhandler said.

"Canada's system is a real single-payer system -- our system is single-payer for only a portion of the population," she said.

This results in higher administrative costs in the United States compared to Canada, Woolhandler said. "In the U.S., administrative costs are about 31 percent of health care costs and it's about 16 percent in Canada," she said.

In addition, hospitals in Canada are paid less than in the United States. Also, the Canadian government negotiates drug prices to get the lowest cost, while the U.S. government is prohibited by law from negotiating drug costs for Medicare patients, Woolhandler said.

Medical malpractice costs also are lower in Canada, she noted.

Even though costs are lower in Canada, health outcomes are akin to the those for the United States, Woolhandler said.

"Canadians' life expectancy is longer than in the United States," she said. "Access to care is better in Canada."

In the United States, access to care is limited by costs, Woolhandler said. One criticism of the Canadian system is that people have to wait for care, but Woolhandler says those who have to wait are only a small minority of patients.

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