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Comparing Canada’s Health Insurance System

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This article provides information to Canadians about Canada's health insurance system in comparison to the other health systems of other countries in the world.

There are vast differences between Canada’s health insurance system and the health care systems of other countries. Which country has the best structure to look after its population?

The health care topic has popped up again and again in the media, the latest being Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko. It has become such a debatable issue that numerous political platforms have addressed it. Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid was partly based on universal health care, a subject she had lobbied for a long time. Her husband, President Clinton, had valiantly tried to get it past the senate years ago.

article11-comparing-canada-health-insurance.htmlHealth Insurance Overview
Canada’s health care system used to be quite similar to that of the United States until 1971, the year Canada’s Medicare was fully instated. Canada’s health insurance plan does not cover all services, but the expenditure is “fair” compared to other countries. It is not as exuberant as the system in France, where people come from out of the country to receive almost-free health services, nor is it as lacking as the American structure, where surgeons will operate only after ascertaining that you have proper insurance.

In Canada, every province has its own regulations with regard to medical coverage. Some provinces have drug cost programs that cover a variety of drugs for certain age brackets. These programs typically extend to low income families, those on social services, and those with certain medical conditions. Some provinces will cover all prescription drugs for seniors or for those whose treatments exceed a specific portion of the family’s income. In most provinces, regular dental checkups are covered for children up to age 14. Many of these allowances counter those of some European countries, like Belgium, which has severely cut back on medical treatments and drugs, and has gone so far as to decide who is too sick to waste time or money on. See here for Canadian government health care coverage.

Currently in the United States, the health insurance system is setup to cover senior citizens, the poor, the disabled, and children. The American government is involved in funding Medicare, Medicaid, The State Childrens’ Health Insurance Program and The Veterans Administration. These programs provide health insurance to those who have served the country, or are physically or financially unable to help themselves. The majority of the working class has to fund their own health insurance.

Additional Medical Facts
Visits to specialists in Canada may be covered by the provincial health care plan, depending on the medical circumstances, or they may require an additional fee. For instance, many elective procedures, especially cosmetic ones, are classed as medically-unnecessary, and must thereby be paid by the patient.

Also notable is that drug prices are regulated in Canada, so name brand medication is often substantially cheaper in Canada than in the United States.

Direct comparison between different countries is very difficult because what one health insurance structure does not have, the other one does. Moreover, the grade they are measured on is adjusted to best accommodate the numerous factors involved, such as population, ethnicity and financial dissimilarity.

More Work Needed for Worldwide Health Insurance Systems
Things are not completely rosy for Canada’s Health Insurance System. The country is loosing doctors and nurses to other nations at an alarming rate because of better salary scales and career opportunities. Due to an aging population that will increasingly need medical attention, this on-going emigration will severely stress the system in the future unless drastic action is taken soon.

In studies conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, results indicated that the United States has the most expensive health care system in the world. Moreover, it ranked last in most areas, including access to health care, patient safety, timeliness of care, and efficiency. Americans were also last in terms of whether they had a regular physician. Britain got the top score in overall ranking among the countries studied, followed by Germany. New Zealand and Australia tied for third place, followed by Canada and the United States. Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis said, "The United States stands out as the only nation in these studies that does not ensure access to health care through universal coverage and promotion of a 'medical home' for patients."

Future Issues Regarding Health Insurance
The United States has submitted a National Health Insurance Act that would create a universal single payer health care system, which would provide every American resident health care free-of-charge. If this goes through, it would certainly change their status as the only developed country which does not have universal health care.

The Canadian health system is focusing on reducing the wait period for medical services, and examining the issue of privatization as well. The idea is that private insurance companies could restore some money into the system. However, there is considerable controversy surrounding this option as some believe it would create inadequacies in the system. Canada’s health insurance system has many future challenges to embrace, and plenty of changes to make.


About the Author:
Adriana Stefania is a freelance writer for Canada Health Insurance. For more information on health insurance for Canadians please visit