I actually heard this on the radio last week, but the Club For Growth gives a good summary:
In a debate sponsored by Intelligence Squared US, liberal economist Paul Krugman tried to defend universal healthcare, but in the process, got humiliated by the audience. Check out this wonderful excerpt from the transcript (PDF):
And private insurance? That’s the thing, I— Actually, can I just —I wanted to ask a question. And—
JOHN DONVAN [MODERATOR]
—and I wanted to ask, actually two questions, to the audience. First, how many Canadians, would Canadians in the room please raise your hands. [ONE PERSON APPLAUDS, LAUGHTER]
We have about seven hands going up—
Okay, not as many as I thought. Okay, of those of you who are not on the panel who are Canadians,, how many of you think you have a terrible health care system. [PAUSE] One, two—
We see—almost all of the same hands going up. [LAUGHTER]
Bad move on my part. [APPLAUSE]
This is funny because Krugman completely misjudged his audience, and because I don’t like him because I think he’s a tremendous blowhard.
I’m not going to try to argue that the response of the 7 Canadians in question prove that the Canadian healthcare system is inadequate or inferior to the US system. Obviously it’s too small a sample size and the nature of the debate probably skewed the ideology of Canadians participating.
What I am going to argue is this: the Canadian healthcare system is not overwhelmingly better or preferential to the US system, as evidenced by the sheer number of Canadians that emigrate to the United States on a consistent basis.
The yearly flow of US citizens to Canada each year has been up and down over the past 15 years, with no clear trend, but seems to hover around 5,000 (plus or minus 1,000) [chart].
The yearly flow of Canadian citizens to the USA also has no clear trend, but appears to be about 15,000/year, with a range between 10,000 and 20,000. [chart]
I believe people vote with their wallets, and they vote with their feet; and at least 3 to 1, people choose to stream into the US and live with the terrible healthcare system* we have than stay in Canada where they get free health care*. If you consider the migration patterns in proportion to their populations, it looks even worse for Canada: 1 in 2200 Canadians run south of the border, and 1 in 60,600 Americans take off to the Great White North.
It seems that Canadians are far more likely to become Americans than to die in a traffic accident, although they’d probably consider the latter more tragic.
* HEATHLY DOSE OF SARCASM, IF YOU DIDN’T GET IT