As Canadians, we often like to boast about our free healthcare system. After all, it's one of the things that distinguishes us from our American cousins.
But, as a new report by the Fraser Institute points out, public healthcare insurance is far from free.
According to the 'The Price of Public Health Care Insurance: 2012 Edition,' released Thursday, the average Canadian family of four now pays approximately $11,400 in taxes for health care insurance. That's a jump of over 59.8 per cent (before inflation) from 2002.
"There's a widespread belief that health care is free in Canada. It's not; our tax dollars cover the cost of it," Nadeem Esmail, co-author of the report, said in an accompanying press release.
"But the way we pay for health care disguises exactly how much public health care insurance costs Canadian families and how that cost is increasing over time."
The study claims that the cost of healthcare insurance is increasing at a far greater rate than other expenditures: Since 2002, the cost of clothing only jumped 11.2 per cent, the cost of food only jumped 14.6 per cent and the cost of shelter went up by 25.4 per cent.
To make matters worse, as an earlier Fraser Institute study pointed out, Canadians aren't getting value for their money.
In a paper released in April, the right-wing think tank noted that Canada spends 11.4 per cent of its GDP on health insurance expenditures — ranking it the sixth highest for health spending in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In 2009 — the most recent data available — Canada ranked 19th out of 28 countries for the number of practicing physicians per 1,000 people, 12th for number of nurses per 1,000 people and tied for last for the number of acute care beds per 1,000 people.
The lesson for Canadians, according to the Fraser Insitute, is that we need more transparency and more choice in our system.
"Our hope is that these figures will enable Canadians to more clearly understand just how much they pay for public health care insurance, and how that amount is changing over time," notes the most recent study.
"With a more precise estimate of what they really pay, Canadians will be in a better position to decide whether they are getting a good return on the money they spend on health care."
The other lesson in all of this: free healthcare doesn't come cheap.