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US and Canada Healthcare Systems Comparison


The U.S. healthcare system greatly differs from that of other advanced industrialized countries. This paper aims to compare the U.S. healthcare system to that of Canada. The essay will begin with a general comparison and description of the structure of healthcare systems in the two countries. The essay will focus on comparing the strengths and weaknesses of the two healthcare systems showing which one is better than the other. It will also discuss whether the Canadian healthcare system will work for the U.S. or fail.

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Canada’s health care system is publicly funded; thus, the system is referred to as Medicare. The country has 13 territorial and provincial health insurance plans that enable its citizens to access the necessary hospital and physician services without paying from their pocket (Allin & Rudoler, 2017). In this case, the healthcare services’ duties are divided between the federal, territorial, and provincial governments. The territorial and provincial government’s role is to deliver and manage health care services for their inhabitants. However, the federal government has several roles, including setting and ensuring national standards via the Canada Health Act. Canada offers good contrast and comparison from the American point of view regarding its healthcare system’s structure.

On the other hand, the U.S. health care system is considered a hybrid. It has no universal healthcare coverage and no uniform health system. Most of the funding in the healthcare sector comes from private funds (Department for Professional Employees, 2016). The U.S. spends a lot of money on its healthcare system compared to any other nation (Nunn et al., 2020). Although most individuals are covered by private healthcare, it does not mean that the government has not invested in its people. The government funds public healthcare, and nearly 34% of its citizens have medical insurance with the government.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Canadian Health Care Systems

One of the main strengths of Canada’s healthcare system is that its healthcare insurance coverage is universal. The country has a National Health Insurance program (NHI) financed by taxes, and the health care providers are paid by only one third-party payer (Akinlaja, 2016). Therefore, the federal government in Canada gives funding support for health care insurance to territorial and provincial governments, provided they follow the rules and regulations in the Canada Health Act.

In addition to this, the hospitals receive global budget payments established by determining total expenditure limits for health services over a certain period to control medical care costs. As a result, Canada’s cost of health care is relatively cheap compared to the U.S. (Schütte et al., 2018). The government of Canada also regulates the prices of drugs, making the cost of medication significantly cheaper than in the U.S. An example of this is 10ml Humalog which in the U.S. costs $250, but in Canada, it goes for around $32.

Another strength is that the country ranks among the best worldwide in multiple healthcare categories. These include better life expectancy, mortality rates from certain illnesses, and fatalities from mental disorders. Canada’s life expectancy rate is about three years longer compared to the United States (Schütte et al., 2018). While the average life expectancy of Americans is 79.3 years, Canadians have a life expectancy of 82.3 years (Department for Professional Employees, 2016). As such, the data shows how Canadians are able to access healthcare services hence improving their wellbeing.

Aside from the strengths observed, the Canadian healthcare system also has weaknesses. One of these is that there can be long waiting times for procedures that are considered non-emergency. According to Schütte et al. (2018), the average amount of time one has to wait to see a specialist doctor ranges from 20-21.2 weeks (a week longer than what it was the previous year). The taxes in Canada are also higher to sustain the healthcare system. This means that a big portion of income for low-income families goes to their healthcare needs compared to high-income families. As a result, this brings about a system of inequality for cost responsibility. Moreover, the permitted fees for physicians are not dependent on the cost of living. Since health care providers in Canada are limited on how much they can charge, their potential earnings are capped, making it difficult for them to maximize their earning potential

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Strengths and Weaknesses of the U.S. Health Care System

The biggest strength of the U.S. healthcare system is its investment in the healthcare system. This has ensured the U.S has advanced technologies hence making it easier to treat major diseases like mental health (The Clinton Courier, 2020). As such, individuals who can pay for the top premium insurance will get the chance to access these services. Also, due to the funding of healthcare, the U.S. has surgeons and physicians who have undergone rigorous training to provide quality services (Tikkanen & Abrahams, 2020). Thus, this makes the U.S. have health specialists who can treat the rarest diseases. Additionally, in the U.S., people in need of surgeries get appointments fast. The waiting list is less as individuals wait for a maximum of 2 weeks to see the specialist (Zieff et al., 2020). On top of this, the U.S. has all the necessary equipment and resources required by patients.

One major weakness of the U.S. healthcare system is that it is expensive. The expensiveness has been based on some contributing factors. These include the cost of new technologies and medicine. According to the Department for professional employees (2016), new technologies and drugs propel the high cost-spending of the U.S. towards the development of the healthcare system. Additionally, there is uneven health coverage in the U.S. compared to Canada.

Also, U.S. citizens have challenges finding a good doctor due to the high cost of getting the treatment and the lack of medical insurance for most people, especially middle-class families. There is also a lack of quality health services, especially in public health care (Chemweno, 2021). Public health care faces shortages of physicians and nurses in the health centers. The lack of universal health insurance has also been a significant weakness in the U.S. About 16% of the population lacks medical insurance, and medical expenditures are becoming unaffordable (Chemweno, 2021). Thus, it is difficult for marginalized communities to pay for their medical bills, hence lacking primary healthcare services. This has forced these populations to rely on emergency departments for the treatment of some diseases, such as chronic diseases.


Although Canada is similar to the U.S., its health care system cannot be copied as the two countries do not share the same social ethos and history. As such, the U.S. has a better chance of learning some things from Canada rather than dismantling its entire health care system to emulate that of Canada. One of the reasons the Canadian system cannot work for the U.S. is the long waiting times for things like joint replacement and the country’s less emphasis on hospitalization and specialist care. Although the Canadian system emphasizes primary care, its low focus on specialist care makes the country a good place to stay, provided one does not get too sick. The country’s only safety valve is that Canadians can always cross the border to the U.S. to get treated for special procedures such as joint replacement.


Akinlaja, M. O. (2016). The United States and Canadian System of Healthcare: A Comparative Study [Doctoral dissertation]. Indian State University. Web.

Allin, S., & Rudoler, D. (2017). The Canadian health care system. International Profiles of Health Care Systems, 21-30. Web.

Chemweno, J. (2021). The U.S. Healthcare System is Broken: A National Perspective. Managed Healthcare Executive. Web.

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Department for Professional Employees. (2016). The U.S. health care system: An international perspective. Web.

Nunn, R., Parsons, J., & Shambaugh, J. (2020). A dozen facts about the economics of the U.S. healthcare system. The Hamilton Project. Web.

Policy, P. H. E. L. and P. P. N. A. (2017). Is Canada the right model for a better U.S. Health Care System? [email protected] Web.

Schütte, S., Acevedo, P. N. M., & Flahault, A. (2018). Health systems around the world–a comparison of existing health system rankings. Journal of global health, 8(1). Web.

The Clinton Courier. (2020). The Pros and Cons of the US Health-Care Model (the Direct-Fee System). Web.

Tikkanen, R., & Abrahams, M. (2020). U.S. health care from a global perspective, 2019: Higher spending, worse outcomes? U.S. Health Care from a Global Perspective, 2019 | Commonwealth Fund. Web.

Zieff, G., Kerr, Z. Y., Moore, J. B., & Stoner, L. (2020). Universal Healthcare in the United States of America: A Healthy Debate. Medicina, 56(11), 580. Web.

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