DYLAN WALCZAK, Special to The Denisonian—Bernie loves Canada more than we love Bernie. Throughout these past Democratic debates, Bernie Sanders has found time to briefly praise the Canadian health care system. It wasn’t until most recently, however, that he was met with a simple rebuttal on behalf of Joe Biden: “This is America.” And honestly, Biden might have a point.
It’s not that Sanders is wrong in utilizing Canada as a frame of reference for his own system. Since its implementation in 1944, Canada’s health care system has served well for its intentions and has risen as a foundational element of Canadian identity. That doesn’t mean that the system (and then some on Sanders’s end) will serve the American people well.
International Insurance reports Canada’s healthcare to be funded and administered by its thirteen provinces and territories. While the federal government establishes certain guidelines all provinces and territories are to adhere to, regional concerns can still be prioritized. Public health care even works its way down to the local level.
There are obviously no out-of-pocket costs as well. Canada’s health care is paid through taxation and public funds. Canadian hospitals are thus nearly always not-for-profit, and any visits to primary caregivers are billed directly to the government.
Now, Sanders’s universal health care plan encompasses the entire country. This is beneficial in that it removes the complexities of providing for individual regions and their needs. However, that is equally its downfall. The relationship between federal and state governments in the US may be ruptured if states are incapable of consistently presenting their ever-changing needs on the federal stage. The American people are thus deprived of specific coverage they may desire.
And that’s not to say that Sanders’s plan isn’t prone to change. But as more coverage is added, the US plummets further into debt. A recent article from the Wall Street Journal states that Sanders would spend at least $30 trillion to replace Obamacare and all other private insurance companies. I am not convinced that our government will be able to extract $30 trillion solely by raising taxes on the wealthy and not forcing the hand of the middle and lower-class taxpayers.
A poll conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist additionally finds that 90% of Democrats prefer Medicare for all that want it, while still leaving private insurance as an option. Americans are gravitating towards a system that is actually similar to Canada; they prefer an individual and/or group consensus of health coverage. Sanders is neglecting these components that would thrive in the US.
Canada’s universal health care system is also working for a smaller population with a smaller national debt. World Population Review estimates Canada’s population at around 37.5 million people. Commodity calculates Canada’s national debt at a little over $925 billion USD. These same sources report a US population of 329 million with a national debt at over $21 trillion. Statistically and financially speaking, how can Sanders accurately compare the US and Canada? Bernie has good intentions. He definitely has positive changes extending from Canada’s system in mind, such as covering the costs of prescription drugs, optometry and dentistry, according to the Washington Post. Nevertheless, Sanders must recognize the power of deliberation and choice embraced by the Canadian population. No matter how much Sanders feels he meets Americans’ needs, Americans are still the best judge of what they need, both on state and local levels. We still want to have a say in our health care plan, not sit back and have someone else do it for us.
Dylan Walczak ‘22 is a creative writing and political science double major from Louisville, Ohio.