Former health insurance exec says the industry pushes lies about Canada's healthcare system

If you've heard that Canada's health system is an example of socialist failure, where wait times are outrageous and people swarm to the U.S. to get the healthcare they really need, you can probably thank Wendell Potter for that.

Potter spent two decades working in the health insurance industry, first for Humana, and then for Cigna. He was head of corporate communications for the latter when he had a crisis of conscience in 2008 and quit. Since then, he has been on a mission to revamp the healthcare system in the U.S. He has also served as a whistleblower, exposing behind-the-scenes corruption and manipulation in the health insurance industry.

Which brings us to Canada.

Potter posted a thread on Twitter this week explaining how he had personally been a part of the push to make Canada's system look bad so that Americans would think our system was superior.


He wrote:

"Amid America's #COVID19 disaster, I must come clean about a lie I spread as a health insurance exec: We spent big $$ to push the idea that Canada's single-payer system was awful & the U.S. system much better. It was a lie & the nations' COVID responses prove it.

The truth: Canada's doing much better than the U.S. when it comes to #COVID19 testing & treatment. On a per capita basis, more Canadians are being tested & fewer getting sick & dying. This may shock Americans who still believe the lies I told about the Canadian health care system.

Here's the truth: Our industry PR & lobbying group, AHIP, supplied my colleagues & me with cherry-picked data & anecdotes to make people think Canadians wait endlessly for their care. It's a lie & I'll always regret the disservice I did to folks on both sides of the border.

In Canada, no one gets turned away from doctors due to lack of funds. In America, exorbitant bills are a defining feature of the system. What about quality of care? When it comes to #COVID19, there's been ~ 21 deaths per 100,000 in Canada, versus 34 per 100,000 in the U.S.

Remember, in Canada there are no co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance ever. Care is free at the point of service. And those laid off in Canada don't face the worry of losing their health insurance. In the U.S., millions are losing their jobs & coverage, and scared to death.

You learn a lot about a healthcare system when a global crisis hits & different nations have different results. Canada's single-payer system is saving lives. The U.S. profit-driven corporate model is failing.

I'll regret slandering Canada's system for the rest of my life."

Potter also added a video explaining a bit more about why Canada has the U.S. beat so badly in our concurrent fights against COVID-19.

Canadians who have experience with both systems chimed in in the comments on Potter's thread, sharing how baffled they were when they first heard how terrible their home country's health system was supposed to be.

There are some things that the U.S. medical system does very well. But for the things most people need, our system sucks compared to most other developed nations.

Not to mention, Canada's health outcomes are better than ours.

And the amount of money we pay for our subpar healthcare experiences is horrifying.

While a few people pointed out that Canada does sometimes have wait times for non-emergency procedures, the truth is that the same thing happens sometimes in the U.S. as well. Depending on where you are and what specialists are available and what demand is, you can end up waiting months for a non-emergency surgery or other procedure here too.

And the trade-off for waiting a bit longer is that you don't have to worry about whether or not you're going to be able to afford it. Yes, please.

And for those who say, "They pay out the nose in taxes!" well, no, not really. Comparing tax structures between countries is like comparing apples to sandwiches, but an analysis from Investopedia and another from CNBC show the difference in what most of us pay in taxes is really not that drastic. And what Canadians get for the taxes they pay results in a much higher quality of life and overall measure of happiness than what we live with in the U.S.

Seriously, it's time. Show us how it's done, Canada. We're ready.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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