The Pitfalls of the Canadian Healthcare System

The Canadian healthcare system was known to be the best amongst all the developing countries in the world. This is because it provided its citizens with the advantages of universal health care. The Canadians have always taken pride in the fact that their government considers healthcare to be a fundamental human right and is willing to pay for it. Even Bernie Sanders used the example of Canada repeatedly during the Democratic Party debates with Hillary Clinton.

However, polls have been consistently ranking Canadian healthcare system in the vicinity of the American system. Many find it strange! How can an expensive and lopsided system be ranked the same as an effective, low-cost universal system? However, that is exactly the case. This leads us to the question, “Is Canadian healthcare system as good as it is made out to be?

In the remainder of this article, we will understand the common pitfalls associated with the Canadian healthcare system.

Prescription Drugs are not Covered

The Canadian health insurance system is the only one in the world that does not cover the cost of prescription drugs. For patients who are facing minor ailments, this is not an issue since the costs are not significant. However, someone who is diagnosed with chronic diseases like cancer will have to buy a lot of expensive medicines. It is a surprising fact for many people, but these costs are covered by the private health insurance companies in the United States. However, they are not covered under the socialistic healthcare system that the Canadians have. To add up to this problem, the costs of prescription drugs in Canada have gone through the roof. Canadians buy the second most expensive medicines in the world! Patients often reach the verge of bankruptcy when they are faced with a serious ailment like cancer. This brings into question the benevolence of the entire system! Maybe it is not much better as compared to the so-called capitalistic American system.

Long Lead Times

Canada has some of the longest lead times for medical treatment in the world. This means that even basic services like imaging services which are taken for granted in the rest of the world takes weeks to months. The problem is that this leads to delay in diagnosing the actual problem at the root cause level. The lack of such diagnosis leads to lost productivity on behalf of the worker. In certain extreme cases, it can even lead to death. The free health care system in Canada has created a scenario wherein everybody wants to get tested or treated since it costs them nothing.

However, the country is nowhere close to equipped with the infrastructure that is required to handle this problem. Hospital beds are scarce. Patients tend to occupy them even if not required. This is because once they leave the hospital, their expenses are no longer covered. A visit to a specialist or a surgery of any kind leads to a three to four month waiting period on average. Once the visit is completed, the follow-up visits also take an equally long period. Hence, the continuity is disrupted, and the quality of health care provided to the patients takes a hit. Sometimes patients who deserve to be moved to intensive care cannot be moved there due to a shortage of beds.

Even though Canada provides free healthcare to all its citizens, there is no marked difference between the life expectancy of people in the United States and Canada. Canada needs to work hard to fix the problem of delay in its health care system. Canadian politicians need to realize that just because they are treating people for free does not mean that their lives are not valuable!

The Urban-Rural Divide

The healthcare situation in rural Canada is considerably bad when compared to the urban centers. The Canadian government doles out benefits based on the demographic profile of an area. This means that the urban areas get the upper hand as compared to the rural areas. Hence the wait times in the rural areas of Canada are even more debilitating than the urban areas. Also, since the government runs the entire system, there is no competition and therefore no incentive to perform better. The equipment and procedures in the rural areas are considerable backward as compared to the urban areas. These areas do not have an adequate number of doctors. Since they are based in remote locations and have harsh weather, a lot of Canadians have to deal with low-quality health care as they cannot frequently travel to the nearby urban centers.

Lastly, the Canadian healthcare system is more driven by politics than it is by the facts regarding medical conditions. Every now and then, media keeps reporting about the negligence of the state-run hospitals. Only the stories that capture media’s attention receive any political attention. The funds for improvement are not apportioned on the basis of a predetermined plan. Rather it is apportioned based on how the media portrays it to the outer world. The result is that the Canadian health care system provides significantly poor quality treatment to its patients.


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