A Comparison Between the Health Care System in Canada and the United States - Essay Sample

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Harvey Mudd College
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Both United States and Canada had similar healthcare systems in the early sixties. However, Canada changed its system between the late sixties and early seventies. According to world health organization's statistics, Canada spends less on health care as compared to United States based on their per-capita basis and on a percentage of the GDP. According to WHO, in 2006 Canada used US$3,876 and the US, US$6,824: on a per-capita basis, and approximated 15.7% and 10% of GDP was used by US and Canadian governments respectively in health care. However, despite a significant difference approximated at 23% between the two governments: with US leading, Canadian government takes care of over 70% of healthcare finances while the US only managed 47%. This statistics depicts Canada's ability to spend less to achieve their desired healthcare standards as the US is portrayed struggling to achieve quality healthcare standards even after investing more of their both GDP and per-capita in financing their health care system (Woolhandler et al. 2003). In a nutshell, this research paper focuses on providing a detailed comparison between the two countries health systems with regard to many fronts such as health insurance, coverage, and access, coverage for mental health, wait times, drugs, technology and healthcare outcomes.

On health insurance, these two governments have continuously maintained a close involvement healthcare (Baker, 2014). However, there exists a very sharp difference with regard to structure between the two on the health insurance aspect. The Canadian government through implementing Canada health act, the federal government always sustainably funds its provincial governments with regard to healthcare expenditure as long as the province conforms to the regulation and prescriptions set within the health act. The Canadian health act strictly prohibits provincial governments from billing end users for services covered by Medicare. This shows the government is directly involved in health care insurance. On the other hand, the United States government limits itself with regard to direct funding of the healthcare through Medicare, Medicaid, and state health insurance program concerned in proving health cover for eligible senior citizens, people living with disabilities, the poor and the children. In addition, the government runs programs such as veterans' administration and military health system to provide cover for both retired veterans and their families and the military personnel extending to active-duty personnel and their families. However, according to WHO statistics, still, 25% of American's population is not insured with approximately 40% lacking adequate health cover while the Canadian federal government has managed to insure all its citizens.

On the Coverage and access front, there exist challenges in both countries as access has proven to be problematic. Studies have proven 5% of the Canadian population lack the ability to find a regular doctor with 10% of the population with no interests of looking for one. Although some may not have a family doctor the Canadian federal government has provided health coverage for its citizens. On the hand, it approximated that 25% of the united states population survive with skeletal health insurance that can hardly cover even their ordinary medical needs leave alone paying major medical expenses. In the United States, universal healthcare is not guaranteed to all the citizens but there are programs such as publicly funded healthcare to cater for the elderly, disabled, and the poor. According to this statistics, one can deduce that as far as coverage and access are concerned Canada has a higher number of its citizens secured and about 40% of the United States has its citizens not assured of universal health care.

Coverage for mental health is an aspect that been accorded the deserved commitment by both governments. For instance, the Canadian health covers psychiatrist services, involving doctors trained in psychiatry, for its citizens. To some extent, provincial-territorial and private programs provide cover for psychological services too but the federal government has no mandate on psychotherapists. In US affordable care act, the public funded program provides for prevention, early intervention, and treatment of mental or substance use disorders.

There are specific factors that influence wait time in both countries. Studies have proven that in the United States waiting times are determined by access to fun and availability of service in one's respective area. However, the Canadians experience more waiting time as compared to the US. However, in both countries, there is a limited number of programs facilitating provision of prescriptions to the needy. In United States Medicare program partially solves this issues while in Canadian most of the prescription covers are provided for by the employers.

Technologically United States spends more as compared to Canada. Its estimated Canada has 4.6 MRI scanner per million and US has 19.5 per million. This depicts the extent the United States government has concerned itself in investing in technology.

In conclusion, healthcare outcomes of one's country directly depend on investment channeled towards various key health fronts as discussed above. According to WHO rankings on the health care performance, Canada appears at 35th and US at 72nd. According to this research, Canada appears to have a better health care system as far as quality services and affordability are concerned. Besides, WHO estimates 83 as the life expectancy in Canada as compared to 78years associated with the residents of US, which shows they have achieved adequate health care with less money (Henderson, 2012).


Woolhandler, S., Campbell, T., & Himmelstein, D. U. (2003). Costs of health care administration in the United States and Canada. New England Journal of Medicine, 349(8), 768-775.

Henderson, J. W. (2012). Health economics and policy (with economic applications). Cengage Learning.

Baker, R. G. (2014). Governance, policy and system-level efforts to support safer healthcare. Healthc. Q, 17, 21-26.

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