Health Care System of Canada

Canada is the one of the largest country in the world, with a population of approximately 32 million. The country has national healthcare system that is funded by the government in accordance to the Canadian Health Act.

Canada health care has remained a work in progress since its foundation. Many reforms have been initiated over the past four decades, and these reforms continue in an attempt to respond to changes with medicine and throughout the society. Despite all these reforms. The basics in the health system that includes universal medical coverage for all those in need remains.

Canada’s healthcare is a publicly funded system and best described as an interlocking set of the ten provincial and three territorial health care insurance scheme. It is commonly known by Canadians as the ‘Medicare’. This health system provides public access to universal and comprehensive coverage for medically necessary hospital and physician services.

The federal government in the ten provinces and three territories has a mandate of helping Canadians maintain and improve their health through numerous activities such as; administering of national health care system principles through the Canada Health Act. They also have a responsibility of delivering health care services to the specific group such as first nations and Inuit. In addition, health Canada usually provides supports to the Health care system through programs such as human resource planning, primary health care delivery and integration of new technologies in the health care system.

Access and availability of health care in Canada

Canada provides a free healthcare system to its citizens and all legal residents in the country. This normally includes access to the family doctor and all emergency care and the basic hospital treatment services. In some provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, they normally charge healthcare tax to their resident for this purpose.

The Canadian Act of 1984 states that the recommendation drugs and supplies are to be provided free to all Canadians in the hospital, this in most cases, normally depend on the one staying in the hospital as an in-patient.

The health care cost for an individual normally begins to accumulate when one is no longer residing in the hospital and begin to purchase prescription drugs and other medical supplies. Specialist’s drugs in Canada have been found to be extremely expensive fora single treatment, while other health services such as massage therapy, physiotherapy, dental treatment and chiropractic are usually not covered.

If an individual is working in Canada, the employer normally offers a health package that covers the prescription drugs, and also up to 80 per cent of the cost incurred for the health services such as chiropractic and physiotherapy treatment. Furthermore, qualification for free services normally varies from one province to another. When an individual is not contented by the benefit package offered at the work place, one can purchase own insurance cover policy.

The cost of health care in Canada

The Canada’s provincially health care system that is normally based on Medicare is usually cost-effective partially because of their organizational straightforwardness. In every province, the doctor handles the insurance claim against the provincial insurer. Therefore, this eliminates the need for an individual accessing the health care to be involved in billing and reclaim.

The private insurance forms only a minimal part of the overall health care system, Modest practices such advertising are normally kept at a minimum, therefore, maximizing the percentage of revenues that go directly towards the healthcare

In general, the health care costs are normally paid through funds obtained from the income taxes. But British Columbia is the only province in Canada that levies a stable monthly premium which is sometimes waived or reduces especially for the low income earners. There are usually no deductibles on basic health care, and co-pays are usually exceedingly low or even non-existent.

A health card is usually issued to an individual who enroll in the program by the provincial Ministry of health, this ensures that everybody receives the same level of healthcare. There is usually no need for a variety of the plan in this healthcare because nearly all necessary basic health care is usually covered, including infertility and maternity problems. Depending on the province, dental and vision care are normally not covered by the program but are catered for by the employer’s insurance package for those who are employed. Other services such as cosmetic surgery and elective surgery are usually not covered; they are normally paid cash of through a private insurer.

The quality of health care in Canada

The quality health care in Canada is normally about delivering the best possible health care, and also achieving the best probable outcomes for people time when they utilizes the services of the health care system. Essentially, this means optimal utilization of the resources set aside for the health care system.

The health care system in Canada offers an exceptionally high standard of care, with quality and the safety of the patient as the top priority. The health Canada normally works with the provinces and the territories, researchers, professionals and providers, policy makers, agencies and the general public to achieve a high quality and safety standard in the health care delivery to all Canadians.

The quality of the healthcare also varies from one province to another. In rural communities and in those areas in further north, health care is considerably a step behind as compared to its counterparts in the south. This has raised concerns about inconsistencies in level of government funding and the overall uniformity in quality of health care provided in the northern and rural areas.

Funding of the Canada health system

Canada health care system is a collection of socialized health insurance strategy that provides treatment to all Canadian citizens. It is widely financed and administered on a provincial or territorial basis where responsibilities and roles are shared between the provincial or territorial government and the federal government. This is done within guidelines set by the federal government. The federal government funds the health system through sales and income taxes. It is organized in a way that all Canadian are covered by the health care system and citizen can see any doctor they want anywhere in the country with no deductibles or co pays.

In the funding process, the federal government roles and responsibilities include;

  • Controlling and setting national principles for the health care system through the Canada health act.
  • Supplementing in the financing of territorial care services through fiscal transfers
  • The federal government provides health care services to specific groups such as Inuit, first nations and veterans. It also funds for the health care of refugees and inmates of federal penitentiaries.
  • Providing other health associated functions such as health safeguard program, the public health and health research.

Since 1997, the federal government provides the funding through tax and cash transfers to the provincial territories. The actual delivery of services however, lies with the provincial government. The cash and tax transfer is through block funding under the Canada health and social transfer (CHST). These transfers are given to sustain social services and postsecondary education so as to enhance accessibility of the health care to all citizens. The Canada social transfer improves transparency of federal funding.

The health care system also receives extra funding from the federal government through the equalization and territorial formula financing. The transfers are based on a principle that fills the gap between the expenditure necessities and the income or revenue raising capacities of the territorial governments.

In the 1950s, Canada implemented the universal coverage of health care and its immediate effect was an increase in the health care system. Over the years, Canada has improved its spending of gross domestic product on health care system but cost extension and cost controls have remained a major challenge.


The health care system in Canada can be considered to be good and one that seeks to provide the most fundamental health care services.

Reasons why Canada health system can be considered to be good

  • Health care in Canada ensures that all people are covered and can access medical care from any hospital of choice.
  • The Canada health care system has significantly reduced Child mortality and maternal mortality
  • Another aspect of Canada health care system that makes it superior is the national immunization strategy and organized breast cancer screening programs.
  • Patient safety is something that has enhanced the quality of health care in Canada. Averting of medical errors or unfavorable events has ensured the survival of many patients seeking health care in any Canadian hospital.
  • The health act of 1984 states that, supplies and prescription of drugs be provided free in all hospitals.
  • In 2004, the federal government together with the provinces came up with a C$ 41 billion 10 year agreement that was aimed at improving the health care system in Canada. Hospitals were required to reduce patients waiting time and also to clear all the backlogs of patients. Hospitals were also required to increase their professional staff.

Reforms needed in the Canadian health care system

Although the current health care system has done remarkably well in various fronts, it is evident that it requires several reforms in order to serve the Canadian people to the ideal. The current healthcare system has faced constant challenges in management of chronic illness. It appears that the current system has extended to the limit of what it can provide, evidence for this come from various quarters including an unquenchable demand for new spending in the absence of the transparent and robust performance system. This actually leads to an intense ideological positioning thatis even likely to choke than inform constructive political debate.

The Canadian system is not well designed for patients with little voice. For instance, it usually difficult to find a doctor, and have a procedure performed or even receive drugs for a critical illness. Furthermore, this public system is usually centrally managed, and its key priority is to optimally utilize resources from the system. As result patients are usually directed from one facility to another, often a considerable distance. Furthermore, in an event of emergency, there is usually no assurance that the patient will access their customary health care facility. This is usually as a result of fragmentation of the health care delivery, which means that all-inclusive medical records are usually not brought together. This problem is usually compounded by unmanageable privacy procedures.

In addition, the following areas need to be reformed, they include; overall health funding, patient waiting times, increasing the medical personnel, home and long term care, medical technology. This is because waiting times among the patients to have an appointment with specialist has risen from 13.1 weeks in 2004 to 17.9 weeks in 2009. Furthermore, presences of crowded emergency rooms are a clear indication of the severity of the problem. The above reforms need to be initiated in order for the Canadian health care system to be effective and efficient in delivery of health care services to its citizens.

Comparison of the Canadian health care system with that of United States

Evaluation of the Canada health care system and that of United States have been made by public policy analysts, the public health and the government. Initially the two countries had related health care systems until Canada reformed its system in the 1960s and 1970s. The United States government uses much more funds health care system than Canada.

Both Canada and United States health care system is on the basis of per capita and as a percentage of gross domestic products. In the year 2006, per capita spending of the United States in health care system amounted to a total of $6,714 this was almost double that of Canada which amounted to $3,678. On the gross domestic product basis United States spending on health was 15.3 percent while Canada spent 10.0 percent of its GDP in health care system delivery.

On the funding parameters in 2006, Canada spending on health was 70 percent and was financed by the government while in the United States; only 46 percent was from the government. This was a reflection that total government expenditure per capita in the United States on healthcare was 23 percent higher than that of Canadian government expenditure.

Another assessment done by the world health organization in 2000 on the general health service performance which used composite measure of accomplishment in the distribution of health, level of health, fairness of financial contribution and level of responsiveness, ranked united states 37th and Canada 30th among 191 member nations. According to this particular assessment, United States responsiveness or superiority of services to persons in health care responsiveness was ranked 1st compared to Canada’s which was ranked 7th.

Comparisons on the basis of life expectancy of which is significantly affected by the health care system in a country, revealed that life expectancy for Canadians was 80.34 years in contrast to that of United States which was 78.6 years.

A study that was done in 2004 found out that Canada mortality rate for acute myocardial infection or heart attack was slightly higher than that of United States. This was explained by a more conservative Canadian approach to re-vascularizing coronary arteries leading to more patients’ deaths.

The cost of health care system in the two countries is rising more rapidly than inflation. This has made both governments to come up with system readjustments where they are considering adding resources to the private or public sectors of the economies.

The different racial makeups in the two countries have also been used as a basis of comparing the health care system. Besides these different racial make ups, the rates of alcoholism and obesity in the two countries are different and thus affect the health care system. In the United States, 12.2 percent of the population is blacks, 16.3 percent are Hispanics. This is courtesy of the 2010 census report. In Canada African constitute 2.5 percent of the population and 0.97 percent Hispanics according to the 2006 census reports. The racial makeup affects the health care system of a country in that cancer incidence among African American is 10 percent higher than that of European Americans. The death rate of black people is elevated for the eight of the top ten causes of the demise.