Five important principles form the foundation of our public health care system. These principles are laid out in the Canada Health Act. They work together to ensure that health care is delivered based on people’s needs and not on their ability to pay.
- Universality: All Canadians and permanent residents are covered equally under the same conditions for all publicly insured health services.
- Accessibility: All Canadians and permanent residents must have equal access to all medically necessary services without having to pay user fees.
- Comprehensiveness: Insured health services must include all medically necessary procedures to prevent and diagnose illnesses and maintain health.
- Public Administration: The health care system is managed by a not-for-profit public authority. This ensures that it is accountable to the public.
- Portability: While each province has its own health care system, all Canadians and permanent residents are covered when travelling in another province.
All provinces must respect these principles in order to qualify for federal funding. Download the handout.
Wait times for certain medical services have been an ongoing source of debate in Canada. Some argue that we should allow people to “buy” faster access to medical services from private, for-profit providers. They claim this would ease pressure on the public system and reduce wait times. But that simply isn’t true.
• Private, for-profit health care drains staff and medical equipment from the public system.
• To maximize profits, private clinics “cherry pick” the healthiest patients and favour the least complicated medical procedures. This leaves the public system to deal with more complex and costlier cases.
• Private clinics aren’t equipped for emergencies. When emergencies happen, they refer patients to the public system, which increases wait times.
• Allowing doctors in private clinics to charge higher fees for their services provides an incentive for doctors to leave the public system.
Private health care is more expensive:
• High-risk, complex patients are sent to the public system, which drives up costs.
• Administrative costs increase when hospitals have to deal with multiple private insurance plans.
• Private clinics often order unnecessary tests and procedures to increase their profits.
Private health care is less safe:
• Private clinics have higher accident and mortality rates since they often cut corners to maximize profits.