Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How Is Canadian Healthcare Doing?

This guest post by William Sheffield discusses the history and current state of healthcare of our neighbors to the north:

The Canadian government takes a different approach to healthcare than its neighbor. In the U.S., the healthcare system is private - each citizen pays for his or her own medical services through insurance or out of pocket. In Canada, the physicians and hospitals are also private, however, the country employs a single payer system. Put simply, all medical services are paid for by the government.

The Birth of Canada's Health Care System

It was the shortage of doctors in the Saskatchewan province around 1946 that inspired the single payer system used by the country today. By 1972, all provinces had complementary programs.

Around 1977, the federal government found it necessary to create a single plan. Having each province design its own health care system was cumbersome. In 1984, 
the Canada Health Act streamlined the process further.

About the Canada Health Care System

The Canada Health Act set criteria for the system in each province but has left management in the hands of the local governments. The Act states that medical insurance must operate on a non-profit basis. Doctors and hospitals remain for-profit businesses.

Canada supplies a physician-to-population ratio much like other countries, but employs more practicing nurses than the U.S. There are significant drawbacks to this approach in both countries. The most common complaint is wait times. The Canadian government addressed this issue in 2010 by 
establishing Patient Wait Times Guarantees to limit the amount of time a patient could be asked to wait before being treated.

Does the Canadian Health Care System Work?

In the sense that all residents have access to medical care, the system works. In the U.S., people without insurance can be denied help in non-emergency cases. The quality is also comparable to other countries. 
Statistics from the journal Health Affairs scores Canada healthcare at the same level as other countries including England, Australia, and the U.S. when looking at in survival rates for cancer and wellness care.

One of the most effective benefits of the Canadian approach is the distribution of funds. The bulk of a payment goes for medical services, not to the administration. The U.S. has allowed politics to clog their healthcare facilities. Over-administration takes funding away from service providers, driving up the cost of medical care to patients.

The Drawbacks

Canada has one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world. Other healthcare systems, especially those in under-developed regions, provide quality care for less money. That is the principle behind medical tourism--people travel to these areas for surgeries that are prohibitively expensive at home.

Even with the changes made to reduce wait times, Canadian residents still have problems getting timely access to services. Part of the reason for this is the inflexibility of the system. It is difficult for the government to stay on top of all the issues because the program is so massive.

Above all things, the health care system in Canada must remain financially viable and that makes the decision-making process primarily political. The government is deciding what it can and cannot do based on budgeting restrictions. This limits the care offered to the Canadian public and forces them to look elsewhere for service.

It is safe to say that there are good and bad aspects to the universal health care system offered in Canada. The government is attempting to improve it, but the vastness of the program makes management difficult.

William Sheffield is a freelance writer who focuses on health insurance, medical science, medical education, the medical profession and other related matters. Those looking into health insurance in Canada should consider the coverage options at Kanetix in order to obtain a desirable deal.


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