During a debate on health care on Tuesday night with Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz claimed that Canadians are fleeing across the border to take advantage of the health care system in the United States. Whilst Cruz’s claims may have bolstered his argument that the country’s health care system is already adequate, they’re simply not true. Whilst some Canadians do cross the border for treatment in the United States, Cruz’s claims that they’re fleeing en masse are a blatant lie from the one-time presidential candidate.
According to CNN, Hillary Clinton’s Democratic primary opponent Senator Bernie Sanders was the first to claim that the Canadian health care system is drastically better than the United States, saying “If you were in Canada, you know what? You would get the health care that you need. The idea that we have policies like that, like the one you describe, is clearly an outrage.”
Cruz replied by claiming that he knows a lot about the Canadian health care system because he was born in Canada. He also once again floated the idea that large numbers of Canadian people are fleeing their country in order to seek medical treatment in the United States. However, the best-available research shows this is simply not true. In fact, very few Canadians have actually been forced to travel to the United States for health care and even fewer have chosen to do so.
According to Vox, the most comprehensive research into Canadian usage of the American health care system was conducted in 2002. The study, titled “Phantoms in the Snow,” surveyed US border facilities and America’s top-rated hospitals about how often they see Canadians seeking health care. Most providers reported that this happened very rarely.
The survey also asked over 18,000 Canadians if they had ever sought medical treatment in the United States, with the results showing only 90 participants had done so and only 20 of those participants had chosen to do so. With that in mind, it’s difficult to deny that some Canadians are traveling to the United States for treatment, it’s just not in the numbers Ted Cruz claims.
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The Health Affairs researchers that conducted the aforementioned study ultimately concluded the idea that Canadian’s are fleeing en masse to use the American health care system is a “persistent myth.” In fact, the researchers claimed that even if Canadians wanted to travel to the U.S. for treatment, many simply could not afford it, saying “Prices for U.S. health care services are extraordinarily high, compared with those in all other countries, and this financial barrier is magnified by the extraordinary strength of the U.S. dollar.”
In a real world example, a hip replacement would cost nearly $100,000 in the United States, and that’s not including travel and accommodation expenses. In comparison, a Canadian citizen wouldn’t have to wait for all that much longer to have the procedure completed for free at home – which is why many Canadians wouldn’t even consider traveling to the U.S. for treatment.
In all, Ted Cruz can’t know all that much about Canada if he really believes Canadian people are traveling in droves to the United States for health care. Whilst research around Canadian use of the American health care system is still a little thin on the ground, the facts clearly prove that barely any Canadians travel to the U.S. for treatment in any given year.
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