Health Care Policy (Canada)

Canadian health care is publicly funded via income taxes, and monitored by federal standards. The Provincial Ministry of Health provides each Canadian citizen who enrolls with a health card. The government provides all basic care and every patient receives the same level of care, but anything not considered essential care is not covered. People with previous medical conditions are not denied access to health care coverage. General practitioners refer patients to specialists when necessary.

Medicare is the largest government health care program. The government pays for approximately 70% of health care expenses, while the rest is paid privately or via private insurance. Dental care is paid for privately, as is any elective surgery, including plastic surgery. Medicare does not fund rehabilitation, mental health, vision care and long-term care.

Hospitals are considered non-profit organizations. Publicly funded insurance is organized by province or territory. Prescription drug benefit plans vary according to province. The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board regulates drug prices. If Medicare does not approve payment for a medical procedure, that procedure is taken off the list of authorized treatments.

Following World War II, during the period of reconstruction, the Canadian government committed itself to collectivist health care. The government relied on medical experts to develop a health care system that would benefit all Canadians. Saskatchewan led the way in 1946, when Tommy Douglas, the founding father of Medicare, and his Cooperative Commonwealth Federation passed the Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act.

Thereafter, most of the population received free health care. Alberta followed suit. Due to these successes, the federal government introduced the Medical Care Act in 1966, permitting each province to create a universal health care plan.

From 1961 to 1964, the Royal Commission on Health Services investigated the provision and distribution of physicians. They discovered certain shortages in supply and thereby encouraged immigration and increased the number of medical schools. These schools advanced the training of family doctors.

A national survey of over 2,000 physicians was conducted in Canada in 1986. The survey discovered that "increasing attention has been directed towards establishing and assessing alternative modes of practice organization, which may produce cost-efficiencies in health service delivery while ensuring a high standard of care ... there have been fewer incentives in Canada to explore alternatives to traditional solo practice than exist in the competitive medical marketplace of the United States." A 2009 poll found that over 80 percent of Canadians prefer their health care system over America's privatized system and over 70 percent deem it efficient.

The Canada Health Care Act was passed in 1984, making it illegal for doctors to charge extra. The Social Union Framework Agreement reasserted its socialist principles in 1999. The agreement states: "Conditional social transfers have enabled governments to introduce new and innovative social programs, such as Medicare, and to ensure that they are available to all Canadians." Regarding meeting the needs of Canadians, the agreement states: "Ensure access for all Canadians, wherever they live or move in Canada, to essential social programs and services of reasonably comparable quality. Provide appropriate assistance to those in need. Respect the principles of Medicare: comprehensiveness, universality, portability, public administration and accessibility."

Despite the obvious benefits of free health care, many critics have found fault with Canada's health care system. Robert Goldberg, a writer for the Washington Times, claims that several factors contribute to Canada's "unhealthy" health care plan. In particular, prolonged waiting times for scheduling appointments and receiving results has led to dangerous consequences. Goldberg writes: "In a recent incident, a child with a brain tumor headed to the States to get a MRI because he would have had to wait four months in Canada. His family paid cash because Health Canada refused to cover the cost."

Goldberg also pointed to a shortage of family doctors in the Canadian system. An article in USA Today entitled "Looking to Canada for Health Care Reform" also made disparaging remarks regarding the Canadian Supreme Court Ruling in Chaoulli v. Quebec. According to the article, "the court ruled that the nation's Medicare program 'violated Canadian patients' rights to 'life, liberty, and security of person'" by subjecting them to unreasonable, "intentional" and, in some cases, fatal waiting periods for treatment. The average waiting period of 17.7 weeks for surgery results from the state-run health care system's failure to meet the needs of all patients. Since Canada's Medicare monopoly effectively has outlawed any private health insurance, Chaoulli was forced to watch many of his patients suffer."

Health Care Policy (Canada): Selected full-text books and articles

Privatization and Provincial Social Services in Canada: Policy, Administration, and Service Delivery
Jacqueline S. Ismael; Yves Vaillancourt.
University of Alberta Press, 1988
Directions for Social Welfare in Canada: The Public's View
John A. Crane.
University of British Columbia Press, 1994
Degrees of Freedom: Canada and the United States in a Changing World
Keith Banting; George Hoberg; Richard Simeon.
McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "The Social Policy Divide: The Welfare State in Canada and the United States"
A Cure for Canada's Sick Medicare. (Health Care)
Romanow, Roy.
Canadian Speeches, Vol. 15, No. 5, November-December 2001
Accidental Logics: The Dynamics of Change in the Health Care Arena in the United States, Britain, and Canada
Carolyn J. Tuohy.
Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Canada: The Logic of the Single-Payer System"
Medical Technology in the United States and Canada: Where Are We Going?
Dewar, Diane M.
Review of Social Economy, Vol. 55, No. 3, Fall 1997
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Children, Politics, and Medicare: Experiences in a Canadian Province
Geoffrey C. Robinson; George R. F. Elliot.
University of Calgary Press, 1993
The Affordable Prescription Drugs Act: A Solution for Today's High Prescription Drug Prices
Pinzone, John D.
Journal of Law and Health, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 2001
North American Elders: United States and Canadian Perspectives
Eloise Rathbone-McCuan; Betty Havens.
Greenwood Press, 1988
Consumer Access to Health Care: Basic Right 21st Century Challenge
Jones, Mary Gardiner.
The Journal of Consumer Affairs, Vol. 26, No. 2, Winter 1992
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Market Limits in Health Reform: Public Success, Private Failure
Daniel Drache; Terry Sullivan.
Routledge, 1999
Health Care: A Community Concern?
Anne Crichton; Ann Robertson; Christine Gordon; Wendy Farrant.
University of Calgary Press, 1997
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