Here's what they found:
- Between 1980 and 2009, Medicare spending per beneficiary in the U.S. rose from $1,215 to $9,446, which was a 198% increase after adjusting for inflation. But in Canada, comparable spending rose from $2,141 to $9,292, or an inflation-adjusted rate of 73%. Think of it this way: for every $10 spent on services in the U.S., Canada spent $3.36.
- In Canada, government healthcare spending paid for a greater offering of benefits (which is why Canada's 1980 spending was higher than that in America), covering 80% of total healthcare costs for seniors. In the United States, Medicare pays for about 50% of seniors' healthcare expenses.
- If Medicare costs had risen at Canada's pace, projected savings would have totaled $154.2 billion in 2009 and $2.156 trillion from 1980 to 2009.
I know what you're thinking. These two idealists are notorious and unrepentant single-payer advocates who founded Physicians for a National Health Program. But like it or not, these are the numbers they got.
Woolhandler and Himmelstein also point out that quality of care apparently has not suffered in Canada because of its parsimony.
"Life expectancy at age 65 years is longer and has grown faster in Canada than in the United States since 1980... offering reassurance that cost control has not compromised quality," they wrote. "A meta-analysis suggests that clinical outcomes are, if anything, better than for insured Americans."