Canada Health Act

In 1979 a federal government study found that doctors in some provinces were charging patients an extra fee to supplement the amount they were paid by the government plan. The study determined that these supplemental user fees had created an unequal system that threatened to limit access to health care for low-income citizens. The Canadian Parliament responded to these concerns by passing the Canada Health Act in 1984. This legislation reaffirmed the government’s commitment to a universal, comprehensive, and publicly administered health insurance system. Today, the Canada Health Act continues to define the central principles of the Canadian health care system.

Despite general public satisfaction with Canada’s health insurance programs, increased health care costs, coupled with declining federal government support have threatened the ability of these programs to meet the country’s medical needs. For example, limited public resources for health care often force Canadians to wait a substantial period of time for nonemergency medical treatments. The waiting time to see a medical specialist can be especially long. Some critics of the public health care system believe that better access to private insurance could alleviate many of these problems. These critics have called on the government to encourage further development of private health care options that could supplement the public programs.

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