How Does Canada’s Health System Actually Work?

The details of how that operates become complicated very quickly. But for patients, it’s all invisible.

They never see a bill for hospital treatments or services provided by their doctor. Some hospitals and physicians once imposed surcharges and service fees on patients, but the federal government shut down the practice in 1984 by cutting off health financing to provinces that allowed it. Similarly doctors cannot moonlight and provide basic medical services to patients who are willing to pay for faster or more attentive service.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Canadians do not have health care costs that they have to pay out of pocket or through private insurance. Most dental work, prescription drugs for people not at retirement age, and eyeglasses are among the many costs not covered. The Canadian Institute for Health Information estimates that governments covered about 70 percent of the 171.9 billion Canadian dollars (roughly $148 billion) spent on health care last year.

The challenge for governments to come up with that money, and how effectively the system uses it, will be the subject of the next installment.

© The New York Times