It is often said that a society is judged by how well it takes care of its most vulnerable.
A new study is out in the Journal of Public Health Research that compares access to health care by poor people living in Canada and the United States. Canada has a national universal healthcare system, Medicare. The authors examined 25 studies.
“Very low-income Canadian patients were consistently and highly advantaged in terms of health care access and survival compared with their counterparts in the USA who lived in poverty and/or were uninsured or underinsured.”
In fact, a poor person in Canada is 36% more likely to receive better care than a poor person in the United States. Three studies found that poor people in the United States were two times more likely to receive delayed care for breast or colon cancer and to die waiting for a transplant.
When it comes to cancer, the differences between the two countries are stark. The poor in Canada have no disadvantage in cancer care while the poor in the United States are significantly disadvantaged.
In reality, it is not just the poor in the United States who are disadvantaged when it comes to cancer. Every family, even those with health insurance, is at risk of financial ruin if a member has cancer. This has led to a new term in the cancer literature, “financial toxicity.” It relates to the high cost of cancer treatment and the stress that cost imposes on cancer patients.
A national improved Medicare for all healthcare system in the United States would end disparities in access to care between rich and poor and cure financial toxicity.