NBC News: Oh Canada, We See So Many Upsides in Your Single-Payer Health Care

Although the Canadian health care system may kind of work for its roughly 33 million people and still have a myriad of downsides, its hard to imagine it could be sustainable in the United States, with 304 million people. But looking at the Canadian system was how NBC News decided to handle its follow-up to the health care summit.

On the Feb. 25 broadcast of the "NBC Nightly News," anchor Brian Williams posed the question whether the Canadian system was better. Though the report pointed out some flaws, NBC made nationalized care seem nice.

"As Washington grapples with its seemingly irreconcilable differences over health care, here in Canada that question was settled decades ago," Williams said. "Canada has universal health insurance, what's known in the U.S. as a single-payer system. Who's to say it's a better way?"

In the segment reported by NBC correspondent Jim Maceda from Vancouver, the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the positives of a single-payer system were laid out for viewers.

"Canadians say they're proud of their 50-year-old experiment in universal health care," Maceda said. "Funded by income tax and sales tax, both moderately higher than in the U.S., the system eliminates red tape, replacing insurance companies with one single payer, the government. The result, Canada spends about half as much as the U.S. per capita on health care for all of its people."

Taxes that are only "moderately" higher, he says?  Try significantly higher. According to The Heritage Foundation's "Index of Economic Freedom," tax and non-tax revenue for every level of government equals about 38.4 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. In the United States, it's 28.2 percent.

Maceda did explain weaknesses in the Canadian system, such as the long waits for some care and a Canadian government official who had to seek care in the United States. But the central theme was that the Canadian system works and was more affordable. The story revolved around a man named Robin Clushinsky, who had quadruple bypass surgery at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver.

"Still, critics say there are weaknesses: long waits, sometimes six months to a year for elective surgeries like hip and knee replacements; the plan is only public, consumers have no private options for basic care; and some procedures are easier to find in the U.S.," Maceda said. "[E]arlier this month, a top Canadian government official traveled to Miami for heart valve repair rather than having it done in Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador's premier, Danny Williams, says the trip was recommended by his Canadian doctor."

But as a parting shot in his segment, Maceda did call the system "fast and efficient" and explained citizens don't have to worry about the financial implications of their health care.

"Meanwhile, Robin Clushinsky, the former first responder, says being on the receiving end of Canada's health care has been fast and efficient without the fear of losing his health insurance and going bankrupt trying to pay the bill," Maceda said.