Canada's health care system is often mistakenly thought of as "free." In fact, Canadians pay for health care through taxes, low monthly or yearly premiums, and in some cases, out-of-pocket payments for non-insured services. Under the Canada Health Care Act of 1986, Canadians have universal access to health care, irrespective of income, employment, status, age or state of health. The administration of most services is provided provincially however, and differs from province to province.
Pro: Universal Access to Health Care for All
Canada’s heath care system ensures that a basic level of coverage is available to all who meet minimum requirements of residency. This means that students, unemployed individuals, pensioners and disabled are covered irrespective of their ability to work. Pregnancies, baby wellness and related health care is usually covered by the health care net.
Con: Priority Assessment Means Some Must Wait Longer
Non-emergency surgeries, tests and treatments are assessed and handled on a priority basis. Specialists visits are also scheduled according to priority. Those with life-threatening conditions, senior citizens and urgent needs get priority status, sometimes resulting in long waits for other patients.
Pro: Landmark Public Education Programs to Reduce Costs
Many provinces have developed social programs to educate the public on injury prevention and other safety issues. Landmark health programs that have helped to increase public awareness of health risks are often funded by government grants directed toward minimizing or reducing health care costs. Examples of such programs and studies include back injury awareness campaigns, social and health care support for disabled populations, and programs aimed at increasing awareness by seniors of the need to use canes and other assistive devices.
Con: Critics Argue Fee Limits are Out of Sync with Cost of Living
In an effort to keep health care costs down, the government puts a cap on what health care providers can charge. Physicians argue that these caps can restrict their earning potential and limit the providers’ ability to cover costs, pay for their student loans and keep pace with the cost of living.
Pro: Comprehensive Coverage for Veterans in Elder Years
Health care for veterans is covered by the federal government. These services are not limited to service-related injuries and illnesses as they are in the United States. This means that the veteran receives more comprehensive health care and social services that includes nursing home care and other treatments in elder years.
Con: Rural Populations May Not Get Equal Distribution of Care
Health care dollars are distributed according to provincial demographics, which means that rural areas often receive less funding than large metropolitan areas. Critics complain as a result, that rural health facilities are improved at a slower rate, and that the lack of dollars in the rural areas results in a shortage of doctors and specialists. Rural residents often have to travel long distances to see specialists within their health care districts.