Canadian Health Care Reform: Private Insurance

Image by Sasin Tipchai

In the Sault, finding a doctor taking patients is next to impossible. Going to a walk-in clinic or Sault Area Hospital Emergency Department becomes a day-long trip. Bring a book and food. There will be plenty of time to read and eat. But it’s not a Sault problem. It’s systemic throughout Canadian health care.

As the Canadian population ages, the stress on the health care system increases. There are not enough nurses, doctors, or technologists. The school system graduates an insufficient amount of health care professionals to fill the demand. However, the only suggestion to make the system better involves spending more money. Canada isn’t the only country with universal health care. Of the 40 largest OECD economies, 39 have universal health care and only one has private health care (America).

The Fraser Institute, a conservative think tank, released its latest health care report entitled, “Understanding Universal Health Care Reform Options: Private Insurance.” Most Canadians hear the words “Private Insurance” and quickly condemn it. The report compares Canada’s health care system with other high-income countries with universal health care coverage.

Of the wealthy countries with universal health care, Canada is the only country without a private health insurance option. The Canada Health Act includes a loss of federal health care funding if a province allows both public and private health insurance.

Canada’s health care system is a “First Dollar Coverage” system so there’s no upfront payment for any medical services deemed necessary. The term “necessary” changed over time because of provinces covering fewer services and new medical technology replacing older technology. There’s definitely a debate over what constitutes a necessary service. The “First Dollar Coverage” creates no market demand for private health insurance.

Private health insurance divides into three main categories. Primary coverage includes any necessary medical services or what Canada calls “First Dollar Coverage.” The primary coverage operates outside the public health care therefore not costing the public system any money. It pumps money into the health system and leaves more money available to low-income clients insured under the public insurance. Secondary coverage works in tandem with public health insurance. It’s used for faster access or amenities after diagnosis from a publicly funded doctor. Cost-sharing includes costs incurred under public health care.

Canada is the only high-income country without any access to primary, secondary, or cost-sharing private insurance. Most countries with universal coverage have access to two forms of private insurance.

Only 45% of Canadians think the quality of medical care rates as excellent or very good. If less than half of Canadians are happy with the Canadian Health System, why do Canadians resist any change to the system? The only thing that 45% gets in Canada is a majority government with the “first past the post” electoral system. We consider anything else at 45% a failure. No one graduates from school with a 45% average. If someone does only 45% of their job, they quickly find themselves without a job.

America’s health care system performs poorly for most people with 25% of Americans happy with their health care. Canada needs to be concerned about the complete privatization of the health care system. Based on America’s results, a private health care system doesn’t provide better care for most people.

The Swiss health care system comprises primary and secondary private insurance. About two-thirds of the Swiss are happy with their quality of medical care. Canada is 20% behind the Swiss in their approval of quality care.

Canadians can buy private health insurance for their pets but not themselves. Pets receive quick medical care and don’t have to wait for months to see a veterinarian. Employers can provide private pharmacare, optometry, dentistry, chiropractic, massage therapy, and other health benefits to their employees and families. Employers cannot buy private health insurance for the necessary services.

It’s time to open a debate about the future of Canadian health care. Do Canadians want to continue on the current path or consider other options to increase health care for all Canadians?


  1. All of that could be true but the root of the problem is the government running it. All parties use health care for political gain to get votes. They make you believe that they know what they are doing, but in reality they are on the low scale of their profession. Ask the question why would a good lawyer or doctor or financial adviser or scientist work for a lot less money than the private sector pays,because they are not good at what they do, just look at our PM.

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