Bernie Sanders Plans Trip to Windsor, Ontario, to Tout Canada’s Lower Drug Prices

Back in 1988, Bernie Sanders headed to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, where according to Michael Kranish of the Washington Post, he touted “government-sponsored health care for all” and criticized “the cost of housing and health care in the United States.” The Vermont socialist and presidential candidate is now planning a trip to Windsor, Ontario, the home town of this writer. As CTV News explains, Sanders will bring “a group of diabetics to buy cheaper insulin.” 

A vial of insulin Type 1 costs about $340 in the United States, roughly 10 times the price in Canada. “We can’t wait for drug companies to lower prices,” Sanders tweeted. “Americans need relief now!” Sanders attributed the price difference to the differences in the way the two countries provide health care. “Canada has a nationalized, single-payer system that allows them to negotiate much better prices with the drug companies.” As the article also explains, “drug tourism has sparked concerns in Canada,” with officials warning of “potential disruption if large numbers of Americans flood the Canadian market,” so the federal government is “monitoring the situation.”

Sanders failed to note that Canadians Frederick Banting and Charles Best invented insulin in the early 1920s, long before the “nationalized, single-payer” system touted by Sanders. During his stay in Windsor, he might check out a few other realities. 

According to the Fraser Institute, in 2016 alone, an estimated 63,459 Canadians received non-emergency medical treatment outside Canada. The largest number of patients leaving the country for treatment was 26,513, from Ontario. As Toronto-based journalist Randi Druzin noted, in 2014, Canadians could expect to wait 9.8 weeks for medically necessary treatment after seeing a specialist, three weeks more than the time physicians considered to be clinically “reasonable.” So “patients are sent to medical facilities in Buffalo, Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan,” for the potentially life-saving treatment such as stem-cell therapy.

And “contrary to popular belief among Americans, health care is not entirely free for Canadians. Dental, ambulance and many other services, as well as prescription medications, must be paid for out of pocket or they’re covered through a combination of public programs and private health insurance.” So under this government monopoly system, Canadians get only the care the government wants them to have, and it is not “free” in any meaningful sense.

On his Windsor trip, Sanders might note that Canada adds at least one sales tax onto purchases, and in some provinces, an additional tax that can add as much as 15 percent. In Ontario, it’s 13 percent, so in sales tax, Ontario beats out California hands down. 

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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