Health care in Canada is delivered through a publicly funded health care system, which is mostly free at the point of use and has most services provided by private entities. It is guided by the provisions of the Canada Health Act of 1984. The government assures the quality of care through federal standards. The government does not participate in day-to-day care or collect any information about an individual's health, which remains confidential between a person and his or her physician. Canada's provincially based Medicare systems are cost-effective partly because of their administrative simplicity. In each province each doctor handles the insurance claim against the provincial insurer. There is no need for the person who accesses health care to be involved in billing and reclaim. Private insurance is only a minimal part of the overall health care system.
Competitive practices such as advertising are kept to a minimum, thus maximizing the percentage of revenues that go directly towards care. In general, costs are paid through funding from income taxes, except in British Columbia, the only province to impose a fixed monthly premium which is waived or reduced for those on low incomes. There are no deductibles on basic health care and co-pays are extremely low or non-existent (supplemental insurance such as Fair Pharmacare may have deductibles, depending on income). A health card is issued by the Provincial Ministry of Health to each individual who enrolls for the program and everyone receives the same level of care. There is no need for a variety of plans because virtually all essential basic care is covered, including maternity and infertility problems. Depending on the province, dental and vision care may not be covered but are often insured by employers through private companies. In some provinces, private supplemental plans are available for those who desire private rooms if they are hospitalized. Cosmetic surgery and some forms of elective surgery are not considered essential care and are generally not covered. These can be paid out-of-pocket or through private insurers. Health coverage is not affected by loss or change of jobs, as long as premiums are up to date, and there are no lifetime limits or exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
Pharmaceutical medications are covered by public funds for the elderly or indigent, or through employment-based private insurance. Drug prices are negotiated with suppliers by the federal government to control costs. Family physicians (often known as general practitioners or GPs in Canada) are chosen by individuals. If a patient wishes to see a specialist or is counseled to see a specialist, a referral can be made by a GP. Preventive care and early detection are considered important and yearly checkups are encouraged. Early detection not only extends life expectancy and quality of life, but cuts down overall costs.
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