Op-ed: Repairing and expanding the health care system in Canada

Although Canadians take pride in the fairness of both their society and their health care system, inequities continue to exist in both, according to a recent op-ed co-authored by Andrew Boozary, a visiting scientist in Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management.

In the February 3, 2020 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), Boozary and co-author Andreas Laupacis, editor-in-chief of CMAJ, described some of the inequities. They noted that poverty is associated with many health risks tied to social context, including housing insecurity, psychological and social isolation, unhealthy food options, trauma, injury, and substance use disorders; that Medicare in Canada does not consistently cover services such as prescription drugs, mental health counseling, home care, and physiotherapy; and that disadvantaged patients with limited financial resources use fewer preventive and outpatient services than those with higher incomes.

The co-authors urged that these disparities be remedied to improve health care for all Canadians, particularly those with lower incomes. “Should Canadians living in low-income areas have the same chance of avoiding preventable disease or death as those living in affluent ones?” the co-authors asked. “The inaction to date has been punishing. What is needed now is public investment, co-designed innovation and political will.”

Read the CMAJ article: The mirage of universality: Canada’s failure to act on social policy and health care