Numerous papers have been written comparing the Canadian and US healthcare systems, and a number of health policy experts have recommended that the Americans implement their single‐payer system to save 12–20% of its healthcare expenditures. This paper is different in that it assumes that neither country will undertake a significant philosophic or structural change in their healthcare system, but there are lessons to be learned that are inherent in one that could be a major breakthrough for the other. Following the model in Canada and in Western Europe, the USA could implement universal health insurance so that the 32.0 million (2015) Americans still uninsured would have at least minimal coverage when incurring medical expenditures. Also, the USA could use smart cards to evaluate eligibility and to process health insurance claims; these changes resulting in an estimated 15% reduction in US health expenditures without adversely effecting access or quality of care. Such a strategy would result in the eventual loss of 2.5 million white‐collar jobs at hospitals, physician offices and insurance companies, a long‐term economic gain.
Only a few would agree with the statement that Canada already functions with a multi‐payer reimbursement system as evidenced by (1) a federal‐provincial, tax‐supported plan, administered by each of the provinces, providing universal coverage for hospital and physician services and (2) roughly 60% of its residents receiving employer‐paid health insurance benefits, underwritten primarily by investor‐owned plans, that are less than effective to reimburse for pharmaceuticals, dental and other healthcare services.
What could be learned from the USA and particularly from Western European countries is possibly implementing an approach, whereby at least upper‐income Canadians could opt out of their federal‐provincial plan and purchase private insurance coverage — being eligible for far more comprehensive “private” benefits for hospital, physician, pharmaceutical, dental and other healthcare services. Aside from generating billions of additional needed revenues from the private sector, it could (1) help eliminate long waits for non‐emergent physicians' care by appointing newly minted specialists to their medical staffs; (2) offer prompt admissions for elective cases to “private” wings of hospitals; (3) increase available funding for what is currently an undercapitalized system; (4) enhance the system's sluggish operations; and (5) encourage more competition among various providers. Although such a two‐tier approach, such as available in the USA and elsewhere, is politically dead on arrival in Canada today, private insurance being already legal and commonly available there. Interestingly, this recommended solution is utilized in most western European countries where there is a higher percentage than in Canada of public (versus private) funding of their total health expenditures.
Because of various vested interests, attempts to implement any of the aforementioned proposals will undoubtedly result in considerable political rancor. There is greater likelihood, however, that the Canadians because their need to be more effective and efficient in their delivery of care, and their overall long‐term fiscal outlook will agree to the further privatization of their healthcare system before the Americans will mandate universal access, use the smart card to process insurance eligibility and claims or will impose price controls on high‐tech services and on pharmaceuticals. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.