United States vs. Canada: The Access to Healthcare


Achieving equitable access to health care is a universal dilemma that is raising concerns among many nations across the world. Whereas the individual right to access good health care remains a significant issue that countries are fighting to achieve, the problem of eliminating health care disparities persists (Lasser, Himmelstein and Woolhandler 1300). Even though nations are fighting tirelessly to ensure that their citizens enjoy unbiased access to health care, some personal, economic, social, geographical, cultural, racial, and religious factors affect health care accessibility. These factors are normally the determinants of health (Lasser et al. 1301). Globally, several determinants of health differ between individual countries, and equitable access to health care differs between the nations. Following such circumstances, this essay presents a comparative health assessment between the United States and Canada.

Definitions of Access and Equity in Health Care

The word access, in the health care systems is a broad term that consists of varied definitions (Lasser et al. 1300). Health care accessibility is therefore the ability of the people to have the right to use and the health services in the most efficient manner. Equity in health care is the legal right to access health services in an impartial manner regardless of any negative circumstance that associates with a person seeking health care. According to Feeny, Kaplan, Huguet and McFarland (3), to have an equitable access to health care means to have the right to enjoy an equitable, affordable, reliable, and an unbiased health care access regardless of someone’s physical status, health condition, financial constraints, social background, cultural roots, or religious affiliation.

Factors affecting Health Care access in Health Care Systems

Several factors affect access to health care. Globally, socioeconomic differences, ethnic differences, cultural differences, management problems in the healthcare systems, geographical and personal issues affect access to health care. Depending on the context of specific situations associated with the ability to access health care, these factors affect patients differently (Feeny, Kaplan, Huguet and McFarland 5). These factors are normally the determinants of health. In the socioeconomic context, the poor are likely to have limited access to health care compared to the wealthy people. However, three main factors affect access to health care. These factors include lack of health care availability, high cost in obtaining health care, and lack of insurance cover (Fenny et al. 7). People who lack health insurance cover are likely to face limited access to health care. Conversely, people who cannot access the health care facilities are likely to face limited access to health care.

Health Care Access in the United States

Despite being a giant economy, the United States has the most controversial health care system when compared to other industrialized economies (Fenny et al. 7). In the United States, most people regard access to health care as unreliable and unaffordable. Sultz and Young (70) state that access to health care is unreliable because in terms of cost containment, the U.S health care is a business deal. Privately owned insurance companies insure majority of the people in the United States. The private insurance companies often inflate the insurance premiums and influence the prices of the prescription drugs, while at the same time, benefit from the government public health funding (Sultz and Young 43). The government health insurances, Medicare and Medicaid, only provide insurance covers to the elderly people of above 65 years and some selected individuals.

In the United States, Barr (23) states that private insurance is a business, not a humanitarian service. In the United States, employers insure their employees. Employers insure their employees on commercial terms agreed with the insurance companies. Employers ensure that the engaged private insurance firms are reputable, and thus, the terms of partnerships are normally on the agreed terms. Hence, the unemployed citizens opt for the out-of-pocket payments, a scenario where the size of someone’s wealth determines the quality of care given (Barr 42). Such factors make health care services unaffordable and expensive to the government. In terms of health care accessibility, issues like wealth disparities, racial discrimination, rising unemployment, unbalance rural-urban development, shortage of primary caregivers, and economic downturns in the American rural counties impede equitable access to health care.

Health Care Access in Canada

Health care access in Canada varies significantly from that of the United States. Through a publicly financed health care system, the Canadians enjoy a high availability of affordable health (Feeny et al. 5). The Canadian Healthcare funding has programs where the government works closely with the life and other health insurance (Marchildon 19). The government financial support ranges from infrastructural development, insurance support, to the purchasing of hospital equipment. Such extensive supports make the access to health care equitable and affordable. According to Marchildon (33), the publicly financed provincial and territorial health care plans make the access to health care in Canada a reliable plan. In addition, Canada has a broad national health insurance plan (Marchildon 36). This insurance program promotes universality, comprehensiveness, and equitable access to health care.

In Canada, issues of health inequalities are minor because the government has advocated for timely access to health care through the plans that reduce the waiting time of the patients (Lasser et al. 1305). However, the absence of a stable primary health care system makes the Canadian health system to face complaints about the long waiting times and the biased health care access among the elderly (Marchildon 100). However, the provincial and territorial care programs have made access to healthcare a universal plan that has extended from the main cities to the rural suburbs. Additionally, Canada has a stable health care policy articulated under the Canadian Health Act of 1984. The act has five major principles under its Medicare Program. The principles include comprehensiveness, universality, accessibility, portability, and public health administration (Barr 16). The five principles promote reasonable and equitable access to health services without any profit-related intentions.

Comparison and Conclusion

Conclusively, the health care systems of the United States and Canada differ in administration and planning. Hence, access to health care in these two nations differs. Cost containment in Canada is more efficient than in the United States. In the United States, profit based private firms provide insurance cover to the employed and the unemployed people. This situation compels the majority of Americans to overspend in purchasing insurance covers to access quality health care. In Canada, the government has a comprehensive universal health coverage program that comes through the national health insurance. Timely access to affordable and equitable health care is more practical in Canada than in the United States. From a personal opinion, Canada is far much better in health provision than the United States.

Works Cited

Barr, Donald. Health Disparities in the United States: Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Health, New York: JHU Press, 2008. Print.

Feeny, David, Mark Kaplan, Nathalie Huguet, and Bentson McFarland. “Research Comparing population health in the United States and Canada.” Population Health Metrics 8.8(2010): 1-11. Print.

Lasser, Karen, David Himmelstein, and Steffie Woolhandler. “Access to Care, Health Status, and Health Disparities in the United States and Canada: Results of a Cross-National Population-Based Survey.” American Journal of Public Health 96.7(2006): 1300-1307. Print.

Marchildon, Gregory. “Canada Health system review.” Health Systems in Transition 15.1(2013): 1 -179. Print.

Sultz, Harry, and Kristina Young. Health Care USA, New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2009. Print.

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