Canadian health care is one of the few spheres to be proud of. Health system is financed by the state and is described as a system of health insurance plans of ten provinces and three territories. This system is known as Medicare and provides free or almost free health care for all Canadians. This structure has been designed this way, because healthcare is in the department of local, provincial authorities, but not the federal government. Province or territory plans, finances and assesses the coverage of hospital care, physicians and other professionals services and some medications needed. Federal government’s role in the healthcare system is limited to ascertaining compliance with general principle of Medicare, partial funding of health programs of provinces or territories and other functions specified in the Constitution of Canada. Other functions are diseases prevention and public health protection and promotion of healthy lifestyle.
Health system of each province or territory is linked by common principles, which are established at federal level. Health care in Canada is financed mainly by taxes, both local and federal income taxes and taxes on profits from businesses. Some provinces use sales tax and tax revenue from the lottery for health financing. However these additional finances do not play a big role in the financing of health care in Canada. Therefore, in 1999 the government announced that the provinces and territories would receive an additional $ 11.5 billion for the period from 1999 to 2004 for additional needs of the system to strengthen it.
Direct medical care is provided for special groups of citizens, which include veterans, Aboriginals living in reservations, military officials and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at federal level.
Healthcare system in Canada is based on primary care physicians, who make up about 51 % of all practicing physicians in the country. They are an interface between the patient and formal Canadian Medicare system, they control access to the majority of medical specialists, hospital care, diagnostic testing and drugs prescription. Such a family doctor can be changed any number of times on the advice of friends or change of mood. However, it is not a system of social medicine where doctors work in government health institutions. Most doctors have their own private practice and enjoy a high degree of autonomy. Some doctors work in hospitals or local health centers.
The state pays for the services of private doctors depending on the scale of assistance provided, and such doctors get payment directly from the budget of the province or territory. Therapists, who do not have a private practice, receive fixed salary or fee depending on the number of medical services provided. When Canadians need medical care, they turn to the practitioner or clinic and submit health insurance card, which is issued to all citizens and legal residents of the country. Canadians do not pay directly for medical services rendered, and they do not need to fill various forms for services that are covered by insurance.
Dentists operate independently from healthcare system, except dental surgeon services in emergency cases. Pharmacies are also independent from government organizations. More than 95 % of all Canadian hospitals operate as non-profit private organizations run by local board of directors, volunteer organizations or municipalities.
In addition to national system of health insurance, provinces and territories also provide medical care for the part of the population that is in need of additional medical services – elderly people, children and unemployed. These additional packages of health services often include free medicines, dental care, eye care, various adaptations for disabled (prostheses, wheelchairs, etc.) and more.
Lynn Stephens in collaboration with Jeffery Goodman, providing facts about Canadian healthcare system.