US Healthcare vs. Canada’s Universal Healthcare

The truth about Universal healthcare in Canada being better than the healthcare system in the US is not only a case of the grass being greener on the other side, but it is the absolute reality about health care systems in the two neighboring countries. Truth be told, the United States spends more money in healthcare than Canada and the results are a lower life expectancy, higher mortality rate, more obese people and higher infant mortality rates (Redden, Candace Et al 74).

While some critics in the US think that the Canadian universal healthcare system is not as good as it is portrayed to be, it is obvious that Canada is a much healthier country. It is agreeable that much of the positive aspects regarding the country’s health issues are catered for by the universal health insurance and that if the United States would adopt the same approach, may be the deteriorating health of its people would stabilize.

The US is the only developed country that has let the control of medicine fall in the hands of the private enterprises.

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The private insurers control the market and are free to increase premiums if the risks are “justifiable. ” They are also under no obligation to keep citizens who cannot meet the insurance premiums. Worse still, to get a more wholesome cover, the individual citizens are required to pay extra premiums. While this continues to happens, the united State’s government continues spending more than 13. percent of its gross domestic product annually in healthcare.

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However, year after year, the deterioration continues and the US government has nothing to show for the increased spending. The medical fate of most United States citizens lies on the employers, who offer health insurance covers as part of the employment benefits. It is estimated that only 59 percent of the entire US resident have health insurance cover through their employers.

Over the years though, and because of the tougher economic times experienced in the country recently, this rate has dropped significantly, therefore leaving many more Americans without health insurance cover. This leaves out major sections of the population such as the self employed, the retirees and the unemployed. The question raised is therefore; should the United States admit that its approach to healthcare has so far failed? Is it time that the country sought an alternative approach by emulating other countries? Different approaches

The fact that Canada’s health system is superior to that of the US is no secret. Why else would the American’s envy the Canadian arrangement, while their Canadian counterparts, although agreeing that theirs is not a foolproof system, hate the US system so passionately. Some people may argue that it is a matter of perception. That analysis between health systems in the two countries has always favored the Canadian context. However, statistics are the only prove we need to justify that indeed the universal health insurance system in Canada has managed to keep Canadians much healthier.

A look at the principles that govern the Canadian health care system reveals that, the government makes a deliberate effort to serve the entire population based on five principles: non profit provision of health insurance services, provision of all necessary health services, serving the entire population, making the services accessible and ensuring that all jurisdictions across the country are covered (Turner, John, 105). From the above description and seeing that every Canadian national is catered for by the universal health insurance, one would expect that most doctors in Canada are employed by the state.

However, this is not always the case. The governing laws however see to it that even the physicians on private practice do not pass on the cost burden to the citizenry. As such, private practicing physicians consulted by the citizenry, invoice the state for their services. This in turn ensures that the prices are regulated as the government can negotiate prices with the doctors (Turner 105). As always, the US is cautious about universal health care because as regular opinions would suggest, it is against America’s spirit of free enterprise.

To the Americans, the idea of universal healthcare is enviable, but as every body knows, the devil is always in the details. Determining whether the United States should adopt a strategy where the government controls most hospitals or one where the government pays health providers for services provided to the citizenry is always a contentious issue (Herzlinger, Regina 142). While the indecision continues however, the citizenry continues to suffer because a significant percentage cannot afford private health insurance and therefore lack the ability to clear hospital bills.

In the liberalized market represented by the United States systems, the more than 150 health care insurance providers lack comprehensive covers thus making healthcare even more costly for the people. In Canada, health providers just deal with one insurer, who in this case happens to the government. The government on the other hand is accountable to the citizenry. Should the level of healthcare be allowed to fall, the government is to ultimately answer to the electorate when the election year comes. History has it that Canadians are extremely proud of their universal health care.

So much was their pride in it that they thought that the outstanding difference between them and the Americans was the fact that they could go to hospitals without worrying about the charges, while their American counterparts had to hope that the insurance providers will hold to the end of their bargain (Herzlinger, 140). It is of concern to the American physicians that should the universal healthcare system be adopted in the country, they would earn less than they do today. Their fears are justified since their Canadian counterparts earn less (Robinson, Sara).

However, does the need to immerse wealth justify the health complications dogging the American population today? What happened to society upholding the dignity of human life above all else? Another argument is that as opposed to the Canadian doctors who just file their invoices to the government and receives payments without having to hassle about it, the American doctors have to subdivide their time between professionalism and dealing with health insurers, who raise such a scene before they can agree to pay up. Is it no doubt that the Canadian doctors love their jobs more than their neighboring colleagues?

In fact, a good working environment in their country makes them focused and therefore the patients are assured of quality care. The tragedy of the American situation is that the doctors in this country are more exposed to legal suits from patients than their American counterparts. A botched medical procedure may make a patient insurance. When such happens, the patients want to be sure that his/her medical expenses are covered. To ensure that this is done, the patient seeks legal redress. In Canada however, a botched medical procedure does not only get paid for by the government, but future fixing of the same is also catered for.

The Canadians therefore have fewer lessons to sue since; after all, they will be covered for a lifetime. Another positive addition to the Canadian Universal health insurance arrangement is the fact that the poor, the old, the young, the rich and people of all gender and races get to have access to the same doctors. In America, your health insurance cover dictates whether you can access specialist doctors. This creates discrepancies in the social fabric, whereby only those who can afford it get specialized treatment.

Some Americans thinks that the universal health care would curtail their freedom to choose their own doctors, but nothing could be further from the truth. In Canada, every one has the leeway to choose their doctors. The future strength of any country lies on children being born today. Giving new born children a chance to survive is therefore among the indicators that countries judge how well their respective healthcare systems are performing. Just as one would expect considering the different systems in Canada and the United States, Canada does better than the United States in this indicator too (Holsoko and Marvin 8).

Too bad is the United States mortality rate that it was ranked second worst after Latvia by a 2006 world’s mother report. This was despite the fact that the United States has neonatal hospital beds and neonatologists that Canada. While Canada registers 4. 3 infant deaths for every 1,000 born, the United States registers 9. 3 deaths for every one thousand deaths. What better prove do people need to believe that the US healthcare system needs to be addressed immediately? The universal care system in Canada has managed to standardize charges in the health sector.

However, this does not mean that the overall government expenditure is any less. The Canadian government however justifies its spending by the virtues that an entire population benefits from it. There have been measures to restrict spending, something that has left the Canadians dissatisfied. Overall, however, the approach by the Canadian government is better than the US approach, which tries to control its spending on healthcare by establishing policies that will lower government expenditure. This approach does nothing to the cost of heath care.

Your guess about who suffers in this form of arrangement is as good as mine. Government accounts for only 40 percent of all health expenditure (Mueller, Keith 41), while the private sector caters for the rest. When the government seeks to minimize its expenditure rather than regulate the cost across the divide, the private sector and individual people who fund for healthcare from their savings stands to make more loses. Millions of Americans still don’t have access to adequate healthcare even in the 21st century.

As a result, maladies go untreated and the suffering among those who can ill afford the rising cost of healthcare increase significantly (Mueller 101) despite efforts by the government to address healthcare concerns for the poor, retirees, children and the marginalized people in the society. The American strategy always falls short of the wholesome services offered by the Canadian universal health insurance. Worse still, attempts by the government to establish Medicare and Medicaid have only served small groups but have far reaching consequences such as dissatisfied doctor, patients and payers (Brown, L.

David 5). Americans may argue that the Canadian approach is not as good as people paint it to be. With the long waiting lists and the bickering in the media about the failing healthcare services, someone is not having a comfortable night. Having invested in the healthcare system for so long, the Canadian populace knows it’s their right to keep the government on its toes. As such, the media plays a watchdog role; where even things that would otherwise pass unreported in the United States make headlines in Canada (Robinson, Sarah).

One of the greatest misdoings for the United State is the deep distrust that people have on public power. Further, their unwillingness to redistributing anything that they think was earned through sacrifice and labor (Brown, L. David 3). As such, the united states not only lacks the political will to find ways of administering universal healthcare, but the citizenry too are not particular about the need for equal health services and the obligation that the government should have towards the health of the general population. Because of this, the public is unable to push the government towards universal principles in health.

Wherever the need arises, the government offers categorized solutions like was the case with Medicare and Medicaid. However, this only addresses partial problems relating to specific segments of the population. The rest of the population has to contend with justifications motivated political agendas. This approach however, seeks to control the crisis in the health sector by addressing the costs involved. In Canada, the government has managed to regulate the cost of healthcare through the universal healthcare insurance. This is because, each doctor bills the government depending on the diagnosis made on patients.

If the government feels that one physician is billing patients above acceptable standards in the prevailing market rate, then the government has the freedom to bargain the prices downwards. Through Medicare, the United States also has the same opportunity to regulate prices in the market. Through the prospective Payment System (PPS), the government has established average costs that the government pays to individual hospitals regardless of their individual costs. Urban hospitals however receive much money than their rural counterparts (Brown, David 11).

By this approach, the government only succeeds in setting the right prices that will ensure that its approach on cutting down government expenditure is realized. Individual payers are left out to find hospitals that suit their incomes. Should the United States decide to take up an approach like Canada’s and provide universal healthcare to the people, what could happen? First, it is no doubt that the liberalized culture in the United States would make it quite hard to make legislation that ensures equity among all people. Looking back at Medicare, there is enough prove that universal equal treatment is not a popular idea among the Americans.

When the question on how individual contributions of the Medicare beneficiaries first appeared in congress, there was division on whether equal treatment should be given to all beneficiaries despite their individual contributions. Another approach would have been to administer equal premiums across all the retirees. However, this too was thought to pose unequal burdens to the contributors. This lesson could act as a basis of attaining universal health coverage. In Canada, the rich and the poor have the same access to healthcare.

The laws in the country are so strict that any one who feels discontent about health services offered in the country, no matter his/her riches is not able to procure health services from a resident physician. This applies to all diagnosis addressed under the Canada Health Act. Above this, one may combine individual payments, private insurance and public finance to cater for further medical services. While this may seem too stringent to the Americans, it is a perfect way that the Canadian administration uses to ensure that personal riches do not determine the quality of healthcare that individual Canadians receive.

As a result, healthcare is not as commercialized in Canada as is the case in the United States. Instead of taxing revenue and channeling the same to a fund, to act as a national health insurer, Canada derives monies to finance the universal healthcare from general revenue generated by the government. Should the United States adopt the Universal healthcare approach, could the law makers and the general populace agree on a more sustainable funding than witnessed through Medicare? One half of Medicare is financed through income taxes from the beneficiaries.

The solvency of the fund therefore depends on the employed beneficiaries, without whom the fund would have no source of revenue (Pal, l. Alexander and Weaver R. Kent 74). The second half of Medicare is financed through general government income and premiums. The levels of this second part depend on the legislation governing them at any one time. Just like Canada, there are the US prohibits individual billing of patients covered by Medicare by the physicians . In 1997, it was estimated that 33 million Americans were enrolled for cover by Medicare, while 34 million was covered by Medicaid.

It was also estimated that an average 34 million Americans lacked any form of public or private insurance covers. They are either too poor to be eligible for private health insurance or a bit too wealthy to get medical assistance from the government (Holosko, Michael and Marvin Feit 4). Majorities of the Americans were and still are at the mercies of an approximate 1,500 health insurance providers. To make matters worse, eligibility requirements, premiums, coverage and reimbursement rates are all left to individual insurers to determine.

In the spirit of encouraging free enterprise, the American government has no regulatory measures that govern coverage in relation to cost, and what the individual health insurance purchasers is entitled to get. In Canada, The US healthcare is looked down as a model, but all for the wrong reasons. The Canadian use the US example as a means of resisting any private interference by the private sector. Unlike Canada however, the populace of the United States have mixed feelings about Canada’s approach to universal health insurance.

Since both Canada and the United States had the same health care systems in the 1960’s, just where did the United States go wrong? A look at the two countries reveals that both governments are deeply involved in the healthcare in the system. The Overall, adopting a universal healthcare strategy is no easy task for America; it is not even easy for Canada and other developed countries like Britain, which have embraced the approach albeit from a different perspective. However, as wisdom dictates, the effect that universal health care would have on the American populace would justify the means. Conclusion

Under the American Medical Association, a doctor has the right to refuse treating a patient if he/she has no proof that he/she will be able to settle the hospital bills. Patients are therefore screened for ability to meet their bills even before the doctors can establish their health conditions. An annual estimation of patients turned away by doctors based on their inability to pay places the figures at 1 million Americans (Holsoko and Marvin 7). Of this, a significant percentage consists of people covered by Medicaid, which many physicians abhor dealing with. This from Medicaid’s delays in payments and the amount of paper work involved.

A 2007 consumer report indicated that as opposed to Canada’s 5 percent population , who claim to not getting adequate health care, the United States is eight times higher this rate. This is not surprising in a country where 16 percent of the population has no health insurance, and a further 24 percent are covered by skeletal insurances that would provide no coverage for major medical procedures. Apart from the direct health consequences that the uninsured American populace is subjected to, health bills have been touted as a major cause of personal bankruptcies.

Although Canada faces challenges in the provision of universal healthcare, at least the patients know that in spite of how long it takes, they will in the end get medical services without having to worry about the payments. As Holly Dressel stated in an article published in Yes Magazine in fall 2006, Universal healthcare in Canada can be equaled to democracy, which although laden with challenges, remains the best solution that humanity has so far. My conviction is that the United States has the capacity to administer universal health care; the only missing link is the political will.

Updated: Feb 19, 2021
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US Healthcare vs. Canada’s Universal Healthcare. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

US Healthcare vs. Canada’s Universal Healthcare essay
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