Private versus public health care in canada

Since 1962, Canada has had a national health care system that is funded by the government.

The system usually referred to as Universal health care system is founded on the fundamental principles of “universal coverage for medically necessary care services and physician services” that are offered on the basis of need rather than ability to pay (O.E.C.D., 2004). Therefore, the system is universally available to Canadian citizen, comprehensive in the services it offers, accessible irrespective of income, portable within and without the country, and is administered publicly.

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The publicly funded health care system is a combination of provincial and territorial health insurance plans. That is the health institutions are provincially run and the health services sought are prepaid by the government. However, most doctors in Canada are in private practice where they provide health service on a fee per service basis.

Some provinces in Canada such as Quebec and British Columbia have designed a way of reducing the health care burden by promoting private-public partnership (P3s); in this case, the services provided through private-public partnership are paid by public funds. The institutions of P3s are seen as a “middle ground” between fully privatized and public health institutions although in their foundation are private companies.

These institutions of private-public partnership have, in turn, elicited much controversy which has led to the debate of the role of both public and private health care. In this dissertation, the comparison between the two will highlight which health care is best suited for Canada and how some features of other health system; in particular, the United States health system would benefit Canada.

The Public Health care

The public health care is vital for the Canadian citizens. Public health care is affordable and accessible to every citizen of Canada irrespective of their income. Relman (2006) confers that sick patients should not be viewed as consumers in commercial transactions where they have an option of selecting the services and prices. Moreover, since public health care is under collective insurance, it becomes less expensive to the end user and the financier as well.

Considering the more private oriented United States health care system and the Canada universal health care system, public health care is cheaper than private heath care.   The following graphs illustrate a partially inverse relationship between public expenditures and total amount spent on health in Canada and the United States. (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2004)


Bell, R.S. (July 2, 2007): Canadian and U.S. Health Services – Let’s Compare the Two, Wall Street Journal Robert, pg 2

Canadian Institute for Health Information (2006): Health Care in Canada 2006: a seventh annual report. Retrieved from Accessed on October 10, 2007.

Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee report. (2002): Our Health, Our Future: Creating Quality Workplaces for Canadian Nurses, Retrieved from,+2002;hl=en;ct=clnk;cd=2;gl=ke;client=firefox-a,  Accessed on October 7, 2007

Lewis, S (2005): From Hippocrates to Hypocrisy. Free Press, Canada
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2004): OECD Principles of corporate governance. OECD Publication Service, Canada.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2004): Canada health system. Retrieved from Accessed on October 7, 2007

Peter, S. H., Gerard, F. A., Robin, O., Colin, F., Vivienne, M., John, M. ; Arnold, E. (2004): How Does the Quality of Care Compare in Five Countries? Health Affairs, 23, no. 3 89-99

Relman, A. (2002): Public versus private health care. New England Journal of Medicine. Harvard Medical School and emeritus editor-in-chief of the, appeared before the Senate committee studying health care in February 2002.

Sanmartin, C., Edward, N., Blackwell, D. Gentleman, J., Martinez, M. ; Simile, C. (2003): Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health, Canada/U.S.A.