Canada: Health system review
AbstractThis analysis of the Canadian health system reviews recent developments in organization and governance, health financing, health care provision, health reforms and health system performance. Life expectancy is high, but it plateaued between 2016 and 2017 due to the opioid crisis. Socioeconomic inequalities in health are significant, and the large and persistent gaps in health outcomes between Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canadians represent a major challenge facing the health system, and society more generally. Canada is a federation: the provinces and territories administer health coverage systems for their residents (referred to as “medicare”), while the federal government sets national standards, such as through the Canada Health Act, and is responsible for health coverage for specific subpopulations. Health care is predominantly publicly financed, with approximately 70% of health expenditures financed through the general tax revenues. Yet there are major gaps in medicare, such as prescription drugs outside hospital, long-term care, mental health care, dental and vision care, which explains the significant role of employer-based private health insurance and out-of-pocket payments. The supply of physicians and nurses is uneven across the country with chronic shortages in rural and remote areas. Recent reforms include a move towards consolidating health regions into more centralized governance structures at the provincial/ territorial level, and gradually moving towards Indigenous self-governance in health care. There has also been some momentum towards introducing a national programme of prescription drug coverage (Pharmacare), though the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 may shift priorities towards addressing other major health system challenges such as the poor quality and regulatory oversight of the long-term care sector. Health system performance has improved in recent years as measured by in-hospital mortality rates, cancer survival and avoidable hospitalizations. Yet major challenges such as access to non-medicare services, wait times for specialist and elective surgical care, and fragmented and poorly coordinated care will continue to preoccupy governments in pursuit of improved health system performance.
European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, Marchildon, Gregory P., Allin, Sara & Merkur, Sherry. (2020). Canada: Health system review. Health Systems in Transition, 22 (3), World Health Organization. Regional Office for Europe. https://iris.who.int/handle/10665/336311