Private health care in Canada? You might be thinking, “I thought health care was free in Canada?” It is true, hospital and doctor visits are 100% free in Canada under the Medicare system. Although, other medical services, like dental care and prescription glasses, are not free. In addition, Canadians do have the option to participate in other private health care options for a pretty penny. Confused? Don’t worry – we’ve ironed out all the details here. Continue reading to understand what private health care means in Canada. 

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What does private healthcare in Canada mean?

Canada is known internationally for their public health care system. So, doesn’t that mean private health care doesn’t exist in Canada? The answer to this question is no, private health care still exists. Before we dive into it, let’s take a brief look at what public health care covers. 

The public health care system is known as Medicare. It is funded by the taxation system. The system is not national, but rather governed at the provincial/territorial level. In other words, there are 13 health care insurance plans. Generally speaking, the public health care system covers hospital and doctor/specialist visits for Canadian citizens and permanent residents. It may also cover some refugees and people in Canada on a work permit. More specifically, childbirth, surgery and prescription drugs given in a hospital are free to Canadians. 

Other prescriptions, dental and vision coverage is not included in the public health care system. This is where the private health care system comes into play. So how do Canadians pay for these extra medical costs? Employed Canadians often have access to a private insurance plan through their employer. This often covers part or all of the cost of prescriptions, dental and vision. Sometimes the plan can cover other health costs, such as physiotherapy, chiropractic care, doctor-prescribed massages, psychotherapy, and more. Canadians who don’t have access to a private insurance plan have two options. They can register and pay for a plan of their own individually or as a family. Or, they can pay out of pocket for medical costs as they arise.

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Why do people use private healthcare?

While public health care is a great benefit to Canadians, it is not a perfect system. The level of service does not compare to private health care because, well, it’s public. The idea is to give every single Canadian the same level of service, no more, no less. This means there can be long wait times for surgeries or you might receive an untimely diagnosis. 

Sometimes when Canadians find themselves in a tricky medical situation, they may choose to seek out a surgery or doctor in the private health care system instead. After all, our health is extremely important and sometimes it can’t wait. These types of clinics do exist in Canada, but they are very costly. In addition, they are technically illegal, but it doesn’t stop them from operating because there is demand. Sometimes, Canadians may go to the United States to seek out medical attention from a private health care clinic as well. 

Is private health care allowed in Canada?

Aside from dental clinics and optometry offices, private health care is not allowed under Canadian law. The illegal aspect is likely due to policymakers wanting to facilitate equality, as opposed to promoting wealth disparity. In addition, it provides doctors and other health care professionals with equal opportunity in the medical industry. Despite this, private health care clinics still exist because there is demand for these services. In fact, there probably always will be. 

What are examples of private healthcare?

According to Aetonix, there are over 100 private clinics across Canada. They typically run independently of the public health care system and are operated by a physician or surgeon. As mentioned, private health care clinics are not legally allowed in Canada. For this reason, their identity is concealed and they may not easy to find. Other examples of private health care include dental clinics and optometrists since these are not covered under Medicare. But on the contrary, these entities are completely legal. 

If you choose to seek out private health care for a surgery or doctor visit, be sure to do your due diligence because you can’t rely on the government to do it for you. This means verifying the doctor or surgeon’s credentials and experience. If you’re going under the knife, be sure you trust this person!

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Why is private healthcare so expensive?

Our southern neighbors, the United States, provides us with horror stories about crazy expensive medical care costs and the debt that comes with it. This is because their entire health system is private. The same is true for the private health care system in Canada. But why is it so expensive? 

Let’s revisit basic financial principles to answer this question. Health is arguably one of the most important aspects of life. Without it, you can’t really do anything. You can’t work, enjoy time with family, or quite literally live. For this reason, when our health is in danger, the demand for health care is intensely high. Health care services are finite, especially when you factor in the amount of education required to enter the field. In addition, the public health care system in Canada has long wait times. When demand goes up, and supply is limited, the price increases. In some ways, health care costs experience exponential price increases as a result of the nature of health in itself – it’s irreplaceable. 

Other reasons why private health care is expensive is because of education, equipment and legality. Most people working in health care went to school for at least 4 years, such as a nurse or receptionist. As for doctors, they usually need to go to school for at least 10 years, sometimes even longer if they choose to become a specialist. All of this education isn’t cheap and the consumer pays for it. Next up, the equipment and other tools needed to facilitate modern medical procedures is not cheap. Everything from the gloves to the scalpel to the monitoring machines costs a lot of money. Lastly, private health care isn’t legal in Canada. So to account for that additional risk the doctor takes on, the clinic may charge more money for their services. 

How much does private health care cost in Canada?

If your employer doesn’t offer a private health insurance plan, you can obtain a plan of your own. Naturally, the cost will depend on your age and any pre-existing health conditions. Generally speaking, monthly health insurance premiums can be anywhere from $80 to $110. 

As for private surgery and doctor visits, it’s hard to say how much it costs and how it compares to public health care. There is a real lack of transparency about costs from the Canadian government, according to CBC. However, some data suggests it can cost two to three times more. For instance, a knee replacement surgery at a public hospital costs about $10,000, paid by Medicare. The same surgery at a private clinic can cost up to $28,000, paid by the patient. 

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What are the advantages of private health care?

  • Faster. If you need an urgent surgery or other medical attention, private health care is more immediate than public health care. 
  • More personalized. The public health care system provides the same level of service to all Canadians. Private health care is more personalized to the individual.

What are the disadvantages of private health care?

  • Expensive. Private health care can cost two to three times more than public health care. This can cause individuals to go into debt to obtain medical attention.
  • Not yet legal. It is not legal yet for private health care clinics to operate in Canada, yet they still do. For this reason, the onus is on the individual to do their research on the practice and key individuals to make sure everything is legitimate. 

Why should we have private healthcare?

Private versus public health care remains to be a topic of debate in Canada. There is no doubt that the public health care system has helped millions of Canadians. In fact, some say the laid back, kind nature of Canadians is attributable to the free health care system – we don’t have to worry about how we’re going to pay for a doctor’s visit or surgery! 

However, there is definitely a benefit to private health care in Canada too. For instance, if a loved one in your family needs surgery and can’t get it quickly enough in the public system, it could quite literally save a life. But the issue is a bit like Pandora’s box. If we were to openly allow private health care in Canada, would we experience the same financial issues in the United States? Furthermore, would it increase the disparity between the haves and have nots? It’s no easy debate – but definitely food for thought!

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