Before You Move: A Canadian health care primer


The American presidential election is just a week away, and people from both political camps and all walks of life (even TV stars) are talking about moving to Canada if their candidate isn’t elected. (If you’re an American thinking about coming to Nova Scotia, Cape Breton is ready to welcome you. Start here.)

Whether you’re a Canadian thanking your lucky stars for our relatively low-key electoral process or an American who’s already packing a suitcase, now seems like a good time to explore one of the key differences between the two countries: our health-care systems.

  • In Canada, your health-care coverage is for life. In the United States your coverage only lasts as long as you can afford it.
  • Everybody in Canada is automatically covered by the health-care plan. Yet there are still millions of Americans who are underinsured or uninsured.
  • Canada’s health-care system is funded by taxes (income, sales and corporate), which keeps the premiums relatively low.
  • Complex hospital or doctor bills? Nope! Unlike in America, it’s only in specific cases that you’ll actually see a bill in Canada.
  • And on that note, it’s virtually unheard of for somebody in Canada to go bankrupt due to health-care costs.
  • While American insurance companies thrive off profits, the Canadian system was truly designed to put patients first.
  • In Canada, health-care coverage is not directly tied to a job, nor is it dependent on your income. Lose your job or income in the United States? You may lose your health insurance or have to settle for lesser coverage.
  • In the Canadian health system you can freely choose your doctors and hospitals; there are no lists of “in-network” suppliers and no hidden charges for going “out of network.”
  • The co-pays and deductibles in the United States can be unaffordable for millions of people. If you’re in Canada you can say goodbye to them, because they don’t exist.
  • The first thing a Canadian doctor is likely to ask you during your appointment is “What’s wrong?” – not “What kind of insurance do you have?”
  • The Canadian government negotiates drug prices on behalf of the population, so drugs remain affordable. In the United States it’s illegal for the government to negotiate drug prices.
  •  Delays in Canadian health care are not due to the cost of insurance, so there is no chance of putting your life at risk by forgoing care because you are underinsured.

Obviously there is much more involved in the debate on which country’s health-care system is better for you as an individual. But in Canada you get a health card when you are born and all you need to do is swipe it whenever you go to a doctor or hospital. End of story.

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