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American vs Canadian Healthcare

Everyone "knows" that Canadian's get better healthcare than Americans do. After all, not only do Canadians live longer but their healthcare is free too!

Recently, June O'Neill and Dave O'Neill submitted a new working paper to NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research), comparing the U.S. and Canadian healthcare systems. Their results may surprise you.


It turns out that once we condition on infant birth weight -- a significant predictor of infant health -- the U.S. has equivalent infant mortality rates. In fact U.S. infant mortality is lower for low-birthweight babies than Canadian infant mortality for low birthweight babies. Overall infant mortality, however, is higher in the U.S. because the incidence of babies with low birthweight is higher than in Canada. This may be due to demographic or epidemiological factors, or it may be the case that the U.S. is better at having a live birth for a low birthweight baby.


Why do Canadians live longer? One reason is due to the excess number of accidents and homicides in the U.S. compared to Canada. In fact 50%-85% of the mortality gap between American and Canadian adults in their twenties can be explained by the increased American accident/homicide rates. For people over 50, 30-50% of the difference in age-specific mortality rates can be attributed to the excess number of heart disease patients in the U.S. These heart disease findings are more likely driven by American lifestyle choices rather than the efficacy of the U.S. medical system.

Moving to Canada won't increase the quality of your healthcare nearly as much as you think it will.

This entry was tagged. America Canada