NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 2, 2009

Private for-profit clinics are a booming business in Canada -- a country often touted as a successful example of a universal health system.  Facing long waits and substandard care, private clinics are proving that Canadians are willing to pay for treatment, says

As the Obama administration prepares to launch its legislative effort to create a national health care system, many experts on both sides of the debate site Canada as a successful model.  But the Canadian system is not without its problems, says 

Critics lament the shortage of doctors as patients flood the system, resulting in long waits for some treatment.  Health care delivery in Canada falls largely under provincial jurisdiction, complicating matters:

  • Private for-profit clinics are permitted in some provinces and not allowed in others.
  • Under the Canada Health Act, privately run facilities cannot charge citizens for services covered by government insurance.
  • But a 2005 Supreme Court ruling in Quebec opened the door for patients facing unreasonable wait times to pay-out-of-pocket for private treatment.

"I think there is a fundamental shift in different parts of the country that's beginning to happen.  I think people are beginning to realize that they should have a choice," says Luc Boulay, a partner at St. Joseph MRI, a private clinic in Quebec that charges around $700 for most scans.

Canada spends $3,600 per capita on health care -- almost half of what is spent in the United States.  And while some in Washington look to its northern neighbor for ideas, the Canadian system is still changing, says

Source: Molly Line, "Canada Sees Boom in Private Health Care Business,", June 30, 2009.


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