Canada’s healthcare system is considered to be a public service and is part of the public sector of the government. The system is publicly funded through taxes, and is organized on a provincial or territorial basis, following guidelines set by the federal government. Provincially, each province has individual procedures in what types of health care needs are to be covered. Most Canadians would be surprised to find out that the topic of our healthcare system has been heavily discussed in Canadian courts over the last few years. The service that is currently provided can be hit or miss, with many negatives – such as hour long waits in emergency rooms and long waiting lists for certain surgeries. The private healthcare system, on the other hand, provides almost instant healthcare services at sometimes outrageously high costs. The private healthcare system is most familiarly used in the United States, and has been a system that Canadians have closely criticized for years – but could the private healthcare system become just as much of a reality in Canada?
Some Canadians believe that the private healthcare system will fix the issues of long wait times (for both surgeries and emergency rooms), and provide higher quality, more efficient overall healthcare – but, the Canadian value of universal health care cannot be ignored. In April 1984, the Canada Health Act was passed in order to ensure that Canada’s provinces and territories all maintain certain requirements of healthcare, such as free access and generally equal opportunity for all Canadians. It is almost impossible to change the healthcare values instilled through the Canada Health Act, so what can the government do in order to fix the major issues that currently happen day to day in the current healthcare system? Some Canadians suggest a mixed health care system will help support both Canadians willing to pay for private healthcare services, and Canadians wanting to abide by universal healthcare.
A mixed health care system provides aspects of both private and public healthcare services. In some ways, Canada, and even Alberta specifically, already have a mix of both private and public healthcare services. The mixed health care system specifically allows citizens to either receive treatment from the public sector of healthcare services, or opt into the private sector. Some examples of private healthcare services would be private clinics that offer MRI Scans, which is usually an extremely long wait to obtain from a public clinic such as a hospital. The mixed system is widely supported because some Canadians believe that if they are capable of paying the cost for better health care, that they should be able to do so regardless of the fact that the public healthcare system is there for them generally free of cost. Typically, the costs that correlate with private health care services are usually covered by private insurance policies (usually up to 80%), but, this depends on the quality of insurance that the individual has themselves, or through their employers. Legally, under federal law, private clinics are not allowed to provide typical services that are already provided under the public healthcare system, but despite the legal issue, many private clinics still offer the same, if not similar, services. According to Global News, if a mixed health care system were to become a reality in Canada, some Canadians fear that “those who are financially able will have access to an "upper" tier of health services too — one where doctors charge whatever they want. Those who lack funds will only have access to the ‘lower’ public tier.”
Whether you are on the side of the current public healthcare system, or on the side of a mixed health care system, both supporters and non-supporters offer valid reasons for wanting or not wanting change. Although the issue of healthcare is extremely controversial, it is something that all Canadians should pay close attention to, as any decisions for change will affect all of us individually, regardless of income, class, race or gender.