NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Canada Is Turning To The Private Sector To Save Its Health System

April 10, 2000

Canada's government-financed health care system, founded in 1965 by a Liberal government, guarantees universal health care to all Canadians -- which means, according to the Fraser Institute's Martin Zelder, "that everyone is entitled to the same lousy health care." And, in fact, the system became so expensive the federal government abandoned its practice of paying half the cost of care and forced the provinces to assume 67 percent of costs. That, in turn, caused provinces to curb spending sharply.

The upshot is that Canadians must endure long waits for surgery and other services -- as well as crowded hospitals and waiting rooms.

So Canada is now eyeing the private sector as a source of funds.

  • The Alberta government has introduced legislation to license private hospitals -- which today are almost nonexistent.
  • A bill is before Canada's House of Commons to legalize for-profit medicine.
  • Polls show that 74 percent of respondents support allowing doctors to charge patients extra fees for health services if the patients can afford the costs.
  • As of 1998, patients were having to wait an average of 13.3 weeks for hospital treatment after being referred by a general practitioner.

Such delays have forced some hospitals to present patients with written warnings about the perils of delayed treatment and advise them to travel to the U.S. for earlier care. Since last April, about 700 Ontario cancer patients have been treated in three U.S. cities.

Source: Julian Deltrame, "To Ease Crisis in Health Care, Canadians Eye Private Sector," Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2000.


Browse more articles on Health Issues