Healthcare in Canada and the United States

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Healthcare&Medicine ・APA ・6 Sources

Out of six industrialized countries (Canada, the Netherland, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia), U.S was ranked the last hence indicating low quality of healthcare in the country.

Ranked position five in health performance.

According to Common wealth funds’ study, both Canada and the U.S have low scores on their healthcare systems since they are occupy the lowest positions compared to other industrialized nations (Science, 2017).

Short wait times for physician appointments. Common wealth study found out that 23 percent of adults wait for a specialist appointment for more than four weeks while 36 percent of those in need of physical emergency visits get to see the doctor the same day. In cases of non-emergency surgery only 8 percent wait for more than four months.

Long wait times for non-emergency surgery and doctors’ appointments. Common wealth study showed that 57 percent of adults in need of a specialist appointment wait for more than a month while 23 percent of those needing emergency visits of the physical see the doctor the same day.33 percent of patients with non-emergency surgery wait for more than four months to be attended.

Using 2006 as an example, a GDP of 10% was used on healthcare ("Canada – Income per capita (GDP per capita) country ranking", 2017).

High expenses on technology of health. In 2006,U.S owned 19.5 scanners(MRI) and 29.5 scanners(CT)in each million population hence healthcare costs are higher due to investment on medical technology.

Medical technology is not a priority. According to Canadian Association of Radiologists, 30% of scans dealing with diagnostic imaging are not useful and give inappropriate information. In 2006, there were 4.6 scanners of MRI and 10.3 scanners of CT in each million population. More money is spent on patient admission and physician appointments than medical technology.

Poor healthcare results. The rates of life expectancy are low while those of infant mortality are high and there are multiple cases of physicians’ errors.

Health performance comparisons are mostly done by public policy analysts and the government. Initially, both countries had similar healthcare systems until in the 1960s and 1970s, when Canada’s systems were changed. Healthcare is among the most expensive things in the national budget of both countries. However, the United States spends more money on healthcare compared to Canada. For instance in 2006, 15.3% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was spent in health care in the U.S and Canada spent only 10.0%. The United States had an overall government spending of 23% per capita at which was more than Canada. In 2006, the U.S government financed 46% of healthcare expenses spent while the government of Canada took care of 70%.However, both countries involve the government in the healthcare service provided ("Canada – Income per capita (GDP per capita) country ranking", 2017). The Government of the United States takes part in regulation and legislation of healthcare for instance by giving grants and loans to subsidize health maintenance organizations and this is done in accordance to the Act of Health Maintenance Organization (1973).

Healthcare outcomes are different in both countries; whereby Canada is believed to produce better results of healthcare compared to the United States. Various studies and organizations state that Canada’s healthcare quality is better than the United States. According to the World Health Organization, Canada has a higher healthy life expectancy, lower maternal and infants mortality, lower death rates caused by non-communicable diseases and injuries compared to the U.S ("High U.S. Health Care Spending Is Largely Driven by Technology Use, Prices", 2017). In 2007, there was a review of studies that compared health results in the U.S and Canada that found patients cared for in Canada have a superior outcome versus the United States.

The United States spends more on healthcare compared to Canada. It is resulted from high usage of medical technology and high prices of healthcare instead of hospital admissions and many doctor visits .The U.S also has a higher cost of drugs than Canada hence healthcare is more expensive. For example, the U.S spends $728 per capita on drugs each year while Canada spends $509. Healthcare expenses include ancillary expenses. Various ancillary costs are higher in U.S than in Canada for instance the administrative costs. A recent study comparing the two countries’ administrative costs found that the U.S has double the costs of Canada. Marketing by both companies of insurance and healthcare providers is also an ancillary cost and it’s higher in the US. The United States uses more money on medical technology compared to Canada. It is indicated by a medical imaging study in Canada that the U.S had 19.5 scanners (MRI) in each population of a million and Canada had 4.6 per million ("High U.S. Health Care Spending Is Largely Driven by Technology Use, Prices", 2017). United States CT scanners led with 29.5 per million and it was followed by Canada with 10.3 CT scanners per million. It is believed that this difference in levels of technology results in longer waits. In Saskatchewan, there was a 22 month wait time for MRI in 1984 however a recent official statistics in 2007 found out that all patients with emergencies get MRIs in a day while urgent patients get it within 3 weeks.

Polices that guide healthcare have affected both countries in various ways. Such policies include the single payer policy, universal coverage, equal access to healthcare, National Health Insurance and cost containment (Mail, 2017). In Canada the National Health Insurance (NHIF) has affected the manner in which the country’s tax is used for instance the NHIF is financed by general taxes through a system of single payer. The universal coverage policy in Canada has as well made the health insurance cover universal hence bringing an equal access to healthcare. In the United States, NHIF provides universal coverage and cost containment by utilization of a single payer system hence the healthcare system is positively affected because single payer system decreases costs of administration and billing. The highly competitive private or medical insurance market have also resulted to cost containment in the U.S.

Governments use policies to govern health systems and control costs of healthcare both in Canada and the US. They also affect the health care systems. Such as, the 1984 Canada Health Act which indirectly bars public insurance services by private delivery or insurance. At times, such policies are made to favor the government by not allowing biding up of costs by private patients hence; this affects the systems since it is controlled only by the government. Patients with non-emergency cases have as well had to wait for their turn on waiting lists and this not only affects the healthcare system but also the patients because it increases the patient’s mortality risk rate. Policies have brought a variety of differences between the US and Canadian healthcare systems similar to laws enacted in the United States to facilitate consumer driven healthcare with accounts of health saving (HSAs). This was signed on December 8, 2003 by President George Bush. Money kept in these accounts are tax free and only individuals with a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) qualify for HSAs. Therefore, the shift to a system based on the market with a larger responsibility of individuals brought differences in the systems of the United States and Canada.


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Ridic, G., Gleason, S., & Ridic, O. (2017). Comparisons of Health Care Systems in the United States, Germany and Canada. Retrieved 11 August 2017, from

Science, L. (2017). U.S. Last in Health Care Among 7 Industrialized Countries. Live Science. Retrieved 11 August 2017, from

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