As countries around the world battle COVID-19 in different ways, political leaders, health officials and the public are witnessing how the pandemic is exposing major issues within their respective health-care systems.
One former U.S. insurance executive’s tweets — which accused the insurance industry of spending “big” money to downplay the merits of the Canadian system — have drawn attention to this issue and the disparities between the Canadian model and the U.S. one.
“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,” Wendell Potter tweeted on Thursday.
“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.”
Potter, an advocate for health-care reform and Medicare for all, spent nearly 15 years doing corporate public relations with health insurance company Cigna Corp, but left after seeing firsthand the way the industry worked against the public’s health interests, according to his website. More than a decade earlier, he disclosed in Congressional testimony the way insurance companies contributed to rising U.S. health-care costs.
Across the broader industry, the U.S. spent nearly US$30 billion in 2016 on health-care advertising, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This amount was double what the industry spent two decades earlier.
Potter and AHIP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this year, a study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that the U.S. health system spent four times more than Canada just in administrative costs alone.
And, according to the Canadian Institute for Health information (CIHI), Canada spent about 10.7 per cent of its GDP on health care in 2018, or $6,448 per person, while the United States spent about 16.9 percent of its GDP, or $13.722 per person.
Health-care spending per person, U.S. vs. Canada
Potter said Canada was handling the pandemic better than the U.S., where COVID-19 cases have surpassed 2.38 million and recorded deaths have hit 121,979 as of June 25, according to CTV News’ data tracker. Canada has recorded more than 102,000 cases and 8,484 deaths.
On a per capita basis, the U.S. is seeing about 719 positive cases for every 100,000 people compared with 271 Canadians per 100,000. The U.S. is recording nearly 37 deaths for every 100,000 people, while Canada is reporting more than 22 people dead for every 100,000.
COVID-19 Cases and deaths in Canada and the United States
“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,” he wrote in his Twitter thread.
“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.”
His comments were met with a mix of criticism and praise, as some users shared personal anecdotes of their experience with both systems and others were critical of damage already done.
“I am a Canadian living and working in the USA. I have had 2 sinus surgeries in my life, one in each country. My surgery in Canada by a top rated ENT? Free. My surgery in the USA by a top rated ENT? $65,000.00,” wrote one user, who added that he was lucky his employer’s health insurance covered most of his U.S. bill.
“The “disservice” you did kept policies intact that killed thousands. Do you feel directly responsible? “Disservice” seems…light,” another user responded.
Earlier this month, a 70-year-old American man who nearly died of COVID-19 shared his astronomical 181-page, US$1.1 million hospital bill following 62 days in the hospital. His bill included US$100,000 in charges during the two days when he appeared close to death.
Despite Potter’s favourable comparisons to the U.S. — which has the highest number of confirmed cases and one of the highest numbers of deaths per capita in the world — Canada’s figures are still very high compared to many other countries around the world.
Canadians have been especially appalled by what has happened in hundreds of the country’s long-term care homes. The proportion of deaths in these facilities have accounted for more than 80 percent of all COVID-related deaths in the country. A report issued by CIHI on Thursday found that proportion was roughly twice the average of rates from 16 other developed nations. By comparison, deaths in long-term care facilities made up 31 percent of all deaths in the U.S., according to CIHI’s study.
Still, for Americans who had trouble accessing COVID tests and worried about medical bills while unemployed during the pandemic, Potter’s tweets, which have more than 113K likes and more than 72K retweets, appeared to strike a nerve.
“You learn a lot about a health-care 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,” he tweeted.
“I’ll regret slandering Canada’s system for the rest of my life.”
Infographics by Mahima Singh
Canada not ready for second wave of COVID-19, Senate committee says – CBC.ca
Canada is ill-prepared for a second wave of COVID-19, says a Senate committee, calling on the federal Liberals to deliver a plan by Labour Day to help people and communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
Seniors, in particular, are a focus of the report from the Senate’s social affairs committee, from those in long-term care homes to those with low incomes.
Just this week, the Liberals rolled out one-time special payments of $300 to the more than six million people who receive old-age security, and $200 more for the 2.2 million who also receive the guaranteed income supplement.
The income supports are meant to help seniors facing increased costs as a result of the pandemic, such as more frequent prescription fees and delivery charges for groceries. Senators on the committee wrote of evidence of “financial insecurity and increased vulnerability” for low-income seniors as a result of the first wave of the novel coronavirus.
A potential second wave, which could coincide with the annual flu season that starts in the fall, would make the situation even worse for these seniors “without concrete and timely government action,” the report says.
Senators say the Liberals should deliver a plan to help low-income seniors, among other populations vulnerable to economic shocks like new immigrants, no later than the end of August, and contain short- and long-term options.
The report also says the federal government needs to pay urgent attention to seniors in long-term care homes where outbreaks and deaths in the pandemic have been concentrated.
The document made public Thursday morning is the committee’s first set of observations on the government’s response to the pandemic, with a final report expected later this year.
Before then, the Liberals are planning to provide another economic update like the one delivered Wednesday, or possibly a full budget.
Healthcare and pharmacare
The government shelved plans to deliver one at the end of March when the House of Commons went on extended hiatus due to the pandemic.
The long-awaited economic “snapshot,” as the Liberals styled it, said federal spending is closing in on $600 billion this fiscal year. That means a deficit of $343 billion, fuelled by emergency pandemic aid that the government budgets at over $230 billion.
The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada said the spending figures demand a “full and transparent assessment” to see what worked, what didn’t and what needs to change for an economic recovery.
Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said the Liberals should take back up their promise to create a national pharmacare system as the government considers its next steps.
A federal advisory council last year calculated the cost of a program at over $15 billion annually, depending on its design.
“The last thing we want to have is Canadians in frail health as we’re dealing with this pandemic and I think the government really needs to think of that,” Yussuff said in an interview Wednesday.
“Had it not been for the health care system we have right now,” he added later, “think of how this country would have fared in this pandemic.”
The Senate committee’s report also notes the national emergency stockpile of personal protective gear like masks, gowns and gloves wasn’t managed well over the years, nor sufficiently stocked when the pandemic struck.
Committee members added concerns that military members could be deployed without sufficient personal protective equipment because of “inconsistencies from international procurement.”
Coronavirus: Canada adds 370 new cases, 12 deaths Thursday – Global News
Canada’s total coronavirus case count went up by 370 Thursday and its deaths by 12.
The country now has 106,783 cases total with 27,460 of them active, and 8,749 deaths total.
Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, reported 137 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total to 56,216.
Six new deaths were also reported, though four of them occurred before July 1. There have now been 5,609 deaths due to the virus in the province.
There are currently 308 people hospitalized in the province, down 23 from Wednesday, and 27 are in intensive care.
Ontario reported 170 new cases on Thursday, with 86 of them originating in the Windsor-Essex region as the province targets temporary farmworkers for testing.
Coronavirus: Federal health officials say ‘limit or no transmission’ of COVID-19 in most parts of Canada
The province now has 36,348 cases total with 31,977 of them recovered, or 88 per cent. Overall, the new daily infection numbers have been on the decline over the past several weeks.
There are currently 123 patients hospitalized, with 31 of them in intensive care (down by four the previous day) and 23 patients on a ventilator (down by three).
Ontario has seen 2,703 deaths after three more were reported Thursday.
In Alberta, meanwhile, three new deaths were announced Thursday, all linked to a coronavirus outbreak at Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital.
The deaths bring the total number of COVID-19 fatalities in the province to 161, while 37 new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the province over the past 24 hours. Currently, there are 584 active cases in Alberta.
Of the total 8,519 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 7,774 have recovered.
Canada’s greatest coronavirus threat comes from U.S.
British Columbia reported 20 new cases Thursday, bringing its total to 3,028, nine of which were not tested but are considered epidemiologically-linked.
More than 88 per cent of those patients have fully recovered, while 175 cases remain active.
Seventeen of those cases are in hospital, four of them in critical care.
20 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., no new deaths
In Saskatchewan, five new cases were added to bring its total to 813, while 750 of them have recovered, up by four from yesterday.
There have been 15 COVID-19-related deaths in the province.
There are currently 48 active cases in the province, health officials said. Active cases are total cases less recoveries and deaths.
For the ninth straight day, no new COVID-19 cases were reported in Manitoba, keeping its total cases to 325 — 11 of which are presumptive cases — with four active cases. Seven Manitobans have died.
New Brunswick reported one new case of the coronavirus on Thursday in the Fredericton region, and said it was a travel-related case and the individual is self-isolating.
The province said the number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 166 and 163 people have recovered. There have been two deaths, and there is one active case.
No new cases or deaths were announced in the rest of the Atlantic or Canada’s territories.
— With files from Gabby Rodrigues, Phil Heidenreich, Thomas Piller, Shane Gibson, Kalina Laframboise, Aya Al-Hakim and Simon Little
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada pushes back on U.S. Congress members’ call to reopen border amid coronavirus – Global News
The federal government is softly pushing back against an effort from U.S. Congress members to reopen the border with Canada amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, saying any decision will be made “by Canadians, for Canadians.”
A bipartisan group of 29 federal lawmakers led by New York representatives Blaine Higgins and Elise Stefanik sent a letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf late last week, urging both countries to “immediately craft a comprehensive framework for phased reopening of the border.”
The group also calls for interim measures to ease restrictions on family members and property owners, particularly those with property only accessible through cross-border travel, and “restore the social bond that unites our two nations.”
“We hope that our legacy of binational cooperation would lend to the development of a thorough plan to protect the health of our shared communities and reinvigorate them in this time of recovery,” the letter reads.
The Canada-U.S. border was shut down to all but essential travel, including transportation of goods and work-related travel, on March 21. The closure has been extended by 30-day periods after assessments of the COVID-19 pandemic in both countries, pushing the deadline most recently to July 21.
‘We’re very concerned’: Dr. Bonnie Henry on COVID-19 transmission coming from U.S.
The Congress members argue those regular extensions have created “unnecessary tension” and uncertainty for individuals and the shared economy,
“Continuing to extend border restrictions at 30-day intervals is untenable for the communities that have been separated from family and unable to tend to their property for over three months,” the group argues.
Higgins, a Democrat, and Republican member Stefanik are co-chairs of the Northern Border Caucus, which focuses on cross-border commerce and investment as well as border infrastructure.
In response to the letter, a spokesperson for the office of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said while conversations between Canada and the U.S. about the border are ongoing, “both sides agree that the current measures in place” have “worked well.”
“Our absolute priority is the health and safety of Canadians,” Katherine Cuplinskas said in an email. “That is why we want to be clear that decisions about Canada’s border are made by Canadians, for Canadians.”
Coronavirus: Why reopening the Canada-US border too soon could mean a ‘second wave’
Cuplinskas did not give any suggestion either way as to whether the July 21 deadline will be extended yet again.
Public polling has suggested Canadians are mostly supportive of the decision to keep the U.S. border closed to limit the spread of COVID-19, and has remained steadfast as cases have surged south of the border at an alarming rate.
The U.S. topped three million infections Wednesday, just 28 days after crossing the two-million mark — cutting by nearly half the time it took to grow from a million to two million cases.
Spikes in several states have lead to continuous record-breaking daily case counts, which have been blamed in part on aggressive moves to reopen local economies.
A Globe and Mail/Nanos poll released Monday, three days after Higgins’ and Stefaniuk’s letter was sent to Blair and Wolf, found 81 per cent of those surveyed want the border to remain closed “for the foreseeable future.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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