ARCHIVED - 2003 First Ministers Health Accord

Overview of the Canadian Health Care System

The goal of the Canada Health Act is to ensure that all eligible residents of Canada have reasonable access to medically necessary insured services on a prepaid basis, without direct charges at the point of service.

How does our health care system work?

Canadians do not pay directly for insured services, nor are they required to fill out forms for these services. There are no deductibles, co-payments, or dollar limits on coverage for insured services. The Act establishes criteria and the conditions that the provinces and territories must meet in order to receive the full federal contribution under the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST).

Provincial and Territorial Role in Health Care

The administration and delivery of health care services is the responsibility of each province or territory, subject to the provisions of the Canada Health Act. Provinces and territories plan, finance (assisted by federal funding) and evaluate the provision of hospital care, physician services, public health and some supplementary health benefits - for example, some aspects of prescription care, vision care and medical equipment and medical appliances.

Government of Canada Role in Health Care

The federal government's role in health care includes:

  • setting and administering national principles for insured health care services through the Canada Health Act;
  • monitoring the implementation of the Act;
  • providing funding assistance to provincial/territorial governments for health care services through federal transfers;
  • delivering direct health services to First Nations and Inuit people, military personnel, the RCMP, and inmates of federal prisons;
  • program and regulatory responsibilities in the area of health protection and promotion, health security and disease prevention, and
  • fostering medical and scientific research through funding and other means.

Benefits for Canadians

Health outcomes are one of the most important indicators of a successful health care system. On that basis, Canada has one of the best health care systems. For example, the life expectancy of Canadians born in 1999 is 79.0, among the highest in the industrialized world, and the 1996 infant mortality rate of 5.6 per 1,000 live births is one of the lowest on the globe.

Our publicly-funded health care system also has economic benefits since companies in Canada do not have to fully fund health benefits for their employees as in the United States. This gives Canadian businesses a competitive edge. A healthy workforce is also a productive workforce. Our health care system therefore contributes to Canada's overall productivity and prosperity.

Links to 2003 Accord on Health Care Renewal

Canadians want a sustainable health care system that provides timely access to quality health services. They recognize that reform is essential, and they support new public investments targeted to achieve this goal.

The February 2003 Accord on Health Care Renewal sets out an action plan for reform that reflects a renewed commitment by governments to work in partnership with each other, with providers, and with Canadians in shaping the future of our public health care system.

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