Canadian Universal Healthcare (Medicare)
The Canadian program for socialised medicine, a national health insurance program which is commonly called "Medicare", is designed to ensure that all citizens have access to non-paid hospital and physician service. Canada has a national program that is composed of 13 interlocking programs, representing the provincial and to a smaller extent territorial responsibility for health care programs as enshrined in the constitution. Each province and territory as a result of this interlocking balance offers a common standard of basic care. Medicare is mandated by the Canada Health Act, and is commonly seen by Canadians as a necessary function of a pluralistic democracy; embodying the values of equity and solidarity of the person against materialist measures of wealth and prosperity.
In 1984, the Federal Government, under the leadership of the Liberals and The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau, enacted the Canada Health Act. This act was based on the five principles of "universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness, and public administration". This public health care system is run in partnership by Health Canada and provincial Ministries of Health, who both contribute tax revenues. The federal government sets policy, while the provinces are responsible for actual administration. In 1995, the Canada Health and Social Transfer was created to replace existing systems for the transferral of tax funding to the provinces to administer social programs. The rationale behind the system is to allow all Canadians equal access to equal treatment, regardless of socio-economic status.
In Canada health care is frequently listed as top issue in election campaigns and is both a topic of frequent debate and a point of pride for many Canadians, Tommy Douglas the founder of medicare was, for example, voted the "Greatest Canadian" on a CBC television programme in 2004.
The current state of Canada's public health care system is gathering increasing media attention due to rising wait times. David Gratzer wrote:
... government researchers have provided the best data on the doctor shortage, noting, for example, that more than 1.5 million Ontarians (or 12 percent of that province’s population) can’t find family physicians.
Most of the blame for the current state of affairs has been placed on successive government mismanagement. This represents a failure of the federal government to properly regulate the level of service being offered in the provinces. People regularly have to wait between four and eight months for surgeries. The median wait time for an MRI across Canada is 10.3 weeks in 2006. In fact, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien campaigned on a promise to shut down private MRI clinics because it creates a two tier system, regardless of the demand for more facilities.
In recent years, there has been suggestion from some lobby groups that Canada should adopt a two-tier health care system, while others have expressed strong opposition to this idea, including the federal government under the Liberal Party. Some argue that Canada already does have a two-tier health care system as the very wealthy can go to the United States for treatment. The argument for allowing private health care is twofold. The first reason is that competition may improve the quality of products and services, while the increase in options will allow those with the means to access private health care and may relieve some of the burden off the public system. Critics argue that health is a right, and that everyone should have access to the same standard of care.
Recently, in Québec, a provincial judge has ruled that private health care providers must be allowed to compete with the government-run health care system.
- “Canadians embrace medicare as a public good, a national symbol and a defining aspect of their citizenship.” See: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/hhr-rhs/strateg/romanow-eng.php
- History of Canada Health and Social Transfer
- The Ugly Truth about Canadian Healthcare