'So much to be learned': Bernie Sanders commends Canada's health care

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders praised Canada's health care system at a sold-out event at the University of Toronto on Sunday, but also added that it's not perfect.

The U.S. senator spoke in Toronto following visits to three hospitals

United States Senator Bernie Sanders waves after speaking at the University of Toronto during an event called 'What the U.S. Can Learn from Canadian Health Care,' in Toronto on Sunday. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders praised Canada's health care system at a sold-out event at the University of Toronto on Sunday, but also added that it's not perfect.

"No country in the world has all of the answers and never will, as technology changes, as needs change," the former Democratic leadership candidate said.

Among the strengths of Canada's health care system, Sanders noted that it covers all Canadians at 50 per cent of what the U.S. spends on health care.

However, he added that both the pharmaceutical industry and dental care are problems in both the U.S. and Canada. 

"There are many low-income people and children who cannot get to the dentist when they need," Sanders said. "Any physician will tell you that dental care is part of health care — cannot be ignored." 

Bernie Sanders on what the U.S. can learn from Canadian health care

6 years ago
Duration 33:24
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders discusses 'what the U.S. can learn from Canadian health care' in speech at the University of Toronto

The former Democratic presidential nominee hopeful's speech comes a day after he visited local hospitals to learn more about Canadian health care.

"We learned a lot about your system and the extraordinary things that your system is doing," Sanders said. 

"There is so much to be learned and we will take back what we learned here and what we learned about the Canadian healthcare system to the United States Congress and to the American people."

Medicare for All

The U.S. senator has been pushing his new bill Medicare for All, which has the goal of achieving universal health care in the United States and takes some inspiration from Canada's health care system. 

He says the bill would "allow the United States of America to do what every other major country on earth is doing and guarantee health care for all as a right, not a privilege."

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also spoke at Sunday's event and introduced Sanders.

"You and I know we don't have all the answers. There is always more that we can do," Wynne said. 

"It was really refreshing and challenging to be part of conversations yesterday at the hospitals with the senator, as we examined what's working in Ontario and what more we need to do, because we need to continue to strive."
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, left, and United States Senator Bernie Sanders smile during a visit to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto as part of a cross-border tour of the Canadian health care system. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Wynne took the opportunity to mention the new OHIP+, which will offer free prescription medication for Ontarians until age 25 starting in 2018.

After his speech, the senator also held a discussion with Dr. Danielle Martin of Women's College Hospital. 

Sanders noted that Martin came to Capitol Hill to stand with 16 of his U.S. senate colleagues to help introduce last month's Medicare for All bill.

However, U.S. health policy expert Larry Levitt of California-based Kaiser Family Foundation says the debate over changing the American health care to one that resembles the Canadian system is still mostly symbolic.

"In the current political environment, it's not happening anytime soon," Levitt told CBC Toronto in an emailed statement. "Americans are not particularly persuaded by arguments about how health care works in other countries."