Oh, Canada

Administrative costs in the U.S. system are 300 percent greater than in Canada (so much for the myth of cost-saving efficiency in a largely privatized system) and provider prices are much higher too -- often 100 percent to 1,000 percent higher for the same service.

A personal story may help readers understand how this can play out in a system like the one in Canada.

Ten years ago my younger sister, while working in British Columbia, realized that her longstanding breast cancer had recurred and was told it would likely kill her within a few months.

Our mother lived in Alberta and was confined to a nursing home. My sister wished to spend as much time as she had left sharing love and life with mother.

She quit her job in British Columbia and moved to Alberta, but she did not lose her insurance coverage, even though she had left her employer.

Because her health insurance was not tied to her job, and pre-existing conditions are not an issue, she never missed a treatment, which was remarkably effective, giving her two more very good years of life.

Eventually she died, at peace, leaving her family with very fond memories, but no medical bills to pay.

Somehow, Canadians believe this is the way it should be.

Dr. M. David Lowe is an adviser to the president on public health at the Markin Institute in Alberta, Canada, and is the former president of the University of Texas - Houston Health Science Center.

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