Estonian Health Care Ranks Higher

Commentary, Healthcare & Welfare, Frontier Centre

Finally, someone pointed out the industrialized world does not consist of North America alone, and a nation does not have to go bankrupt to provide superior health care to all of its citizens.

Denmark is one of many European nations that are way ahead of Canada in quality of health care, according to the annual comparison conducted by European Health Consumer Powerhouse and Winnipeg-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Their publication, Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index 2009, places Canadian health care 23rd among 31 European nations. Canada even trails five post-communist countries.

The 46-page study includes some interesting information — for example, Canada spends more on health care than any other country included in the index, which may come as a shock to many Canadians who are accustomed to comparing Canada’s health care spending to the U.S. Canada also scores the worst on waiting times for treatment and on patient rights.

The countries in the study have national health-care systems and share with Canada a commitment to universally accessible health care. Even though there are various degrees of privatization in European countries, no one is denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition or lifestyle issues such as smoking, obesity or drug abuse. Some countries even cover dental treatment and cost of medications; no referral from a GP is needed to see a specialist in others.

Pointing south of the border is a waste of time. Most of us know the U.S. health-care system is inhumane and ridiculously expensive. What would Canadians do if the U.S. did not exist — point to Mexico? Why not look to places where health care actually works, such as Denmark. That might be a bit of a stretch, as Denmark placed fourth on the index. But why couldn’t Canada’s health care be at least as good as that of Estonia, a former Soviet republic, which was 12th, well ahead of our 23rd-place spot?