Health Care Systems in Canada and the USA


Over the years, there have been numerous debates and opinions over the connection shared by Canada and the United States of America. The two countries have a long history of trade partnership that has helped to boost their economies. The two neighboring countries share the world’s longest unguarded border (Wolper 103). Canada and the United States of America have a record for good governance and effective policy development. For example, they have been very effective in development of health care policies. The health care policies applied in the two countries have very good results in terms of research development, patient care, as well as education and training. According to the World Health Organization, a health system refers to all institutions, groups, stakeholders, and actions whose primary orientation is to promote and uphold the health of people (Wolper 112). In addition, a health system entails efforts geared towards influencing various determinants of people’s health in order to improve the general welfare of a population. The federal governments of Canada and the United States conduct periodical comparisons of their health systems on a yearly basis. The comparisons consider expenditure and coverage of their health care system on target populations (Boychuk 60). This essay will provide a detailed comparison of health care systems in these two countries under the following headings: structure, health indicators, financial impact, special populations, and future of healthcare.


In the early 1900s, Canada and the United States of America used health care systems that have a lot of resemblance. However, things changed between the early 1960s and late 1970s when the Canadian federal government decided to make a few amendments to its healthcare policy (Wolper 119). The aim of making the changes was to improve efficiency, coverage, and reduce the overall cost of providing medical cover to its citizens. This move marked the beginning of other changes that would make the health care policy in Canada different from that used in America, albeit with some similarities (Boychuk 66).


The health care systems applied in both countries is one that allows the federal government to assume full control of all activities and programs (Wolper 132). The structure in both healthcare systems also provides room for engaging the private sector and other relevant stakeholders. Both governments have invested a big percentage of their financial resources in provision of health care. In 2004, the Canadian federal government spent an average of $1,893 on every citizen, while the American government spent $2,728 on every citizen eligible for medical cover (Jonas 13). The federal governments in Canada and the United States delegate the responsibility of implementing the health policy on provincial governments and state governments respectively. This implementation structure leads to variations in the way funding and overall coverage of health care programs happens in the two countries (Wolper 135).

Funding provided by federal governments in Canada and United States focuses on providing medical insurance to citizens. Funding for health insurance in Canada follows the provisions on accessibility of services, as provided for in the Canada Health Act (Wolper 146). The government provides healthcare services through public and private facilities across the country. Through engaging the private sector, the federal government of Canada helps to bring professionalism and increase accessibility of medical services. Hospitals in Canada are not under full control of the federal government. Instead, provincial authorities and specially formed boards hold that responsibility (Wolper 150).

A similar structure applies in the United States of America where the federal government has full control over health care programs (Jonas 16). The government can delegate responsibilities and powers to state governments on condition that they meet all set rules. Some of the health care programs run by the federal government in America include Medicare, Medicaid, and the military health policy. Medicare provides health insurance to persons aged 65 and above, while Medicaid provides health care to needy citizens (Jonas 19). The military health policy provides health care to active members, war veterans, and their immediate family members. Many eligible Americans are still uninsured, despite efforts by the government to reduce this number through Obamacare, which provides universal health care policy for all Americans (Jonas 20).

Health Indicators

Health indicators refer to standardized appraises that help in assessing the effectiveness of health care systems by comparing the health status of people with its performance and features. Health indicators are very essential in ensuring effective provision of medical services. The reason for this is that they help one in understanding how health care systems work, as well as identifying any system elements that need improvements (Boychuk 70). According to the latest rankings of the performance of healthcare systems, Canada ranks higher than the United States of America. This means that Canadians are healthier compared to Americans. The World Health Organization recommends against use of parameters such as mortality rate and life expectancy as health indicators. They argue that most of the forces that influence these variables are not related to the kind of health care system used in a country (Boychuk 73).

Studies have shown that the healthcare system used in Canada is superior to the one adopted in America. Patients treated for similar conditions in both countries show varied results, with those treated in Canada having better results. Patients also show a preference for the Canadian health care system over that of the United States (Matcha 141). This was according to a study conducted on ten patients who were suffering from certain conditions and needed specialized treatment. Of the ten, a half preferred to seek their treatment in Canada, while two chose the United States. The other three did not choose because they would go to hospitals in either of the countries.

Although quantitative data shows than Canadians enjoy better health care than the Americans do, they remain behind in treatment of certain chronic diseases. America has a superior health care system in the treatment of cancer. On the other hand, Canada has a better record of treating kidney failures compared to the United States of America. Disparities witnessed in health care provision also apply as reliable indicators. Disparities often apply between the rich and the poor (Boychuk 86). This results in a country failing to achieve its full potential in terms of desired health care outcomes. The world health organization uses various indicators to access the effectiveness of health care systems used by different countries. Canada has high survival rates for colorectal cancer, leukemia, as well as liver and kidney transplants (Boychuk 89). The United States has high survival rates for cervical and breast cancer, as well as a good prevention on child related diseases such as measles. Differences in the rankings are because of varied lifestyle choices such as smoking and eating of junk foods.

Financial Impact

The health care systems used in Canada and the United States of America have a strong financial effect on the economies of the respective countries. The impact has been felt on federal budgets, taxation rates, and cost of labor. A report released by the Canadian federal government in 2002, indicated that the health care system had greatly reduced the cost of labor, especially in the automobile industry (Matcha 148). The universal health care system reduced the burden that employers incurred in providing their employees with medical cover. This led to the cost of labor going up. The health care system in Canada has influenced the budgeting system, because there is an increasing demand for medical cover especially among older people (Matcha 150).

This means that the financial demands of the government will increase, and they have to devise means of getting the extra money needed. The most obvious way of raising the funds is revising taxation rates on the higher side (Forman 56). Other options include getting rid of certain projects or reducing their budgetary allocations. The federal government can also use the surplus money retained during budgetary allocations every year in funding the increasing demand for medical cover (Matcha 156). The funds can also help to improve efficiency of the Canadian health care system by reducing the time that one has to wait before receiving treatment.

The current health care system used in the United States of America affects the federal budget, cost of labor, and the rate of unemployment. Unlike in Canada where the health care system has reduced the cost of labor, the American health care system increases the cost of hiring human resources (Forman 62). This compromises the ability of the labor market to support all its services. The health care system in the United States requires employees to provide their workers with medical cover at their places of work. The high cost has reduced demand for human resources among employers, thus resulting in high rates of unemployment (Forman 67). Unemployment has very many negative effects on a county’s economy. The bargaining power of potential employees is highly reduced when the employer has to provide the mandatory medical insurance.

Individuals willing to increase their chances of getting a job have enrolled in individual programs, which allow one to pay for their own medical cover. In some cases, employees remain in jobs for long because they do not want to lose their medical coverage (Matcha 200). Legislation by the federal government allows employers to investigate the health history of a potential employee during the recruitment and selection process. For many years, the health policy used in the United States of America has been different from that used in the rest of countries belonging to the organization for economic cooperation and development (OECD). America spends a lot of money on its health care system, which economic experts say is three times more than the average cost of health care for OECD members (Matcha 210).

Special Populations

A common feature of the health care systems applied in Canada and the United States is the difficulty of accessing medical services. The systems provide medical cover to certain special groups in their populations. Although the Canadian health care system provides universal services to all people, 5% of the population have yet to receive medical services (Boychuk 120). A percentage of the population that has never attempted to seek medical cover services from various facilities that offer them. By 2007, 24% of Americans did not have medical insurance. Most people have limited access to medical services because the available health care programs provide services to special populations (Matcha 130).

Medicare is a health insurance system funded by the American federal government that provides health care services to people aged 65 and over. Medicaid is a health care program funded by the American federal government to provide health care to needy families and individuals across the country (Boychuk 123). The military health policy includes a variety of health programs for veterans of war. The programs provide health care services to active and retired military members along with their immediate family members (Boychuk 126).

Future of Healthcare

The future of health care in Canada and the United States of America is very bright and well thought out by the federal governments. Both sets of government understand the need to improve the efficiency of their health care systems, in order to improve efficiency and coverage (Forman 36). The Canadian health care system offers universal medical cover to all citizens, but there is the need to reduce the number of days that a patient has to wait before receiving treatment. The United States of America health care system need a significant restructure that will allow all citizens to have eligibility for medical cover. The federal government can learn from Canada, which has used its health care system to improve the flexibility of its labor market through competitively priced human resource (Forman 41). The future of health care depends on the political structures applied in each country, because good politics will result in imaginative solutions to the numerous challenges affecting the sector. There is also a need for the both sets of federal governments to reorient their health care systems towards promoting the provision of health care based on the patient needs (Forman 45). The future of health care in the United States of America is the Obamacare.


Boychuk, Gerard. National Insurance in the United States and Canada: Race, Territory, and the Roots of Difference. Toronto: Georgetown University Press, 2008. Print.

Forman, Lillian. Health Care Reform. New York: ABDO, 2009. Print.

Jonas, Steven. An Introduction to the U.S. Health Care System. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2007. Print.

Matcha, Duane. Health Care Systems of the Developed World: How the United States’ System Remains an Outlier. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Print.

Wolper, Lawrence. Health Care Administration: Planning, Implementing, and Managing Organized Delivery Systems. New Jersey: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2004. Print.

Find out your order's cost