We are a country that prides itself on a system of universal health. It is a system which merits are hotly debated by many inside and outside the country, particularly amongst our neighbours to the south. It should mean access for all, but does it?
For the most part it is admirable due to a founding principle being based on need rather than the ability to pay. A system which is free at point of access. But it is imperfect. Its decentralized system makes it hugely varied, and one which is rather expensive and not as efficient as some other models of national health.
Vast differences occur across geographical areas, both urban and rural, from north to south. Significant health inequities are experienced across populations, requiring more concerted determinants of health approaches and resource inputs. And to reach health equity, a combination of universal and targeted approaches are needed.
According to recent Angus Reid research, access to health care is a significant problem for one in five Canadians over 55. This access to health care extends to prescription drugs for this same age group, whereby one in six, more that 2 million individuals, struggle to afford the cost.
Our aging and diverse population experiences a whole gamut of issues include accessing a doctor and other health care services, significant wait times and costs of medication. These costs can translate to not filling, not renewing or stretching prescriptions. National Pharmacare may help, or is it merely tweaking the existing system that is needed?
Access to health is about more than just primary care. That said, many Canadians do have a family doctor but this can still mean difficulty getting an appointment and any further care needed such as through a specialist or for surgery. These medical wait times can cause delays in diagnostics and prolong pain or discomfort for many, they can turn an acute condition into a chronic, more severe one; they impact morbidity and mortality. This can often disproportionately affect those on a lower income.
A modern health system must be coordinated and comprehensive, taking in all aspects of what health means. Approaching the federal election, this issue has been at the forefront for many. Universal health needs to be accessible for all, being true to its origins while modernizing where needed.