We compared health status, access to care, and utilization of medical services in the United States and Canada and compared disparities according to race, income, and immigrant status.
We analyzed population-based data on 3505 Canadian and 5183 US adults from the Joint Canada/US Survey of Health. Controlling for gender, age, income, race, and immigrant status, we used logistic regression to analyze country as a predictor of access to care, quality of care, and satisfaction with care and as a predictor of disparities in these measures.
In multivariate analyses, US respondents (compared with Canadians) were less likely to have a regular doctor, more likely to have unmet health needs, and more likely to forgo needed medicines. Disparities on the basis of race, income, and immigrant status were present in both countries but were more extreme in the United States.
United States residents are less able to access care than are Canadians. Universal coverage appears to reduce most disparities in access to care.
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Canada provides universal health insurance to all citizens, whereas 47 million Americans are uninsured. There has not been a study comparing access to emergency operative care between the 2 countries. As both countries contemplate changes in health care delivery, such comparisons are needed to guide health policy decisions. The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not there is a difference in access to emergency operative care between Canada and the United States.
All patients diagnosed with acute appendicitis from 2001 to 2005 were identified in the Canadian Institute for Health Information database and the US Nationwide Inpatient Sample. Severity of appendicitis was determined by ICD-9 codes. Patients were further characterized by age, gender, insurance status, race, and socioeconomic status (SES; income). Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to determine the odds of appendiceal perforation at different levels of SES in each country.
There were 102,692 Canadian patients and 276,890 American patients with acute appendicitis. In Canada, there was no difference in the odds of perforation between income levels. In the United States, there was a significant, inverse relationship between income level and the odds of perforation. The odds of perforation in the lowest income quartile were significantly higher than the odds of perforation in the highest income bracket (odds ratio, 1.20; 95% confidence interval, 1.16-1.24).
The results suggest that access to emergency operative care is related to SES in the United States, but not in Canada. This difference could result from the concern over the ability to pay medical bills or the lack of a stable relationship with a primary care provider that can occur outside of a universal health care system.
Health care policy in Canada is based on providing public funding for medically necessary physician and hospital-based services free at the point of delivery ("first-dollar public funding"). Studies consistently show that the introduction of public funding to support the provision of health care services free at the point of delivery is associated with increases in the proportionate share of services used by the poor and in population distributions of services that are independent of income. Claims about the success of Canada's health care policy tend to be based on these findings, without reference to medical necessity. This article adopts a needs-based perspective to reviewing the distribution of health care services. Despite the removal of user prices, significant barriers remain to services being distributed in accordance with need-the objective of needs-based access to services remains elusive. The increased fiscal pressures imposed on health care in the 1990s, together with the failure of health care policy to encompass the changing nature of health care delivery, seem to represent further departures from policy objectives. In addition, there is evidence of increasing public dissatisfaction with the performance of the system. A return to modest increases in public funding in the new millennium has not been sufficient to arrest these trends. Widespread support for first-dollar public funding needs to be accompanied by greater attention to the scope of the legislation and the adoption of a needs-based focus among health care policymakers.
Canada shares many similarities with other industrialized countries around the world, including a rapidly aging population. What sets Canada uniquely apart is the collaborative approach that has been enacted in the health care system and the aging research initiatives. Canada has tremendous pride in its publicly funded health care system that guarantees universal coverage for health care services on the basis of need, rather than ability to pay. It is also distinguished as a multicultural society that is officially bilingual. Aging research has developed rapidly over the past decade. In particular, the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging is one of the most comprehensive research platforms of its kind and is expected to change the landscape of aging research.
The break-up of the USSR brought considerable disruption to health services in Russia. The uptake of compulsory health insurance rose rapidly after its introduction in 1993. However, by 2000 coverage was still incomplete, especially amongst the disadvantaged. By this time, however, the state health service had become more stable, and the private sector was growing. This paper describes subsequent trends and determinants of healthcare insurance coverage in Russia, and its relationship with health service utilisation, as well as the role of the private sector.
Data were from the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey, an annual household panel survey (2000-4) from 38 centres across the Russian Federation. Annual trends in insurance coverage were measured (2000-4). Cross-sectional multivariate analyses of the determinants of health insurance and its relationship with health care utilisation were performed in working-age people (18-59 years) using 2004 data.
Between 2000 and 2004, coverage by the compulsory insurance scheme increased from 88% to 94% of adults; however 10% of working-age men remained uninsured. Compulsory health insurance coverage was lower amongst the poor, unemployed, unhealthy and people outside the main cities. The uninsured were less likely to seek medical help for new health problems. 3% of respondents had supplementary (private) insurance, and rising utilisation of private healthcare was greatest amongst the more educated and wealthy.
Despite high population insurance coverage, a multiply disadvantaged uninsured minority remains, with low utilisation of health services. Universal insurance could therefore increase access, and potentially contribute to reducing avoidable healthcare-related mortality. Meanwhile, the socioeconomically advantaged are turning increasingly to a growing private sector.
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Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) represent almost half the world's population, and all five national governments recently committed to work nationally, regionally, and globally to ensure that universal health coverage (UHC) is achieved. This analysis reviews national efforts to achieve UHC. With a broad range of health indicators, life expectancy (ranging from 53 years to 73 years), and mortality rate in children younger than 5 years (ranging from 10·3 to 44·6 deaths per 1000 livebirths), a review of progress in each of the BRICS countries shows that each has some way to go before achieving UHC. The BRICS countries show substantial, and often similar, challenges in moving towards UHC. On the basis of a review of each country, the most pressing problems are: raising insufficient public spending; stewarding mixed private and public health systems; ensuring equity; meeting the demands for more human resources; managing changing demographics and disease burdens; and addressing the social determinants of health. Increases in public funding can be used to show how BRICS health ministries could accelerate progress to achieve UHC. Although all the BRICS countries have devoted increased resources to health, the biggest increase has been in China, which was probably facilitated by China's rapid economic growth. However, the BRICS country with the second highest economic growth, India, has had the least improvement in public funding for health. Future research to understand such different levels of prioritisation of the health sector in these countries could be useful. Similarly, the role of strategic purchasing in working with powerful private sectors, the effect of federal structures, and the implications of investment in primary health care as a foundation for UHC could be explored. These issues could serve as the basis on which BRICS countries focus their efforts to share ideas and strategies.
Comparisons of cancer survival in Canadian and US metropolitan areas have shown consistent Canadian advantages. This study tests a health insurance hypothesis by comparing cancer survival in Toronto, Ontario, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
Ontario and Hawaii registries provided a total of 9190 and 2895 cancer cases (breast and prostate, 1986-1990, followed until 1996). Socioeconomic data for each person's residence at the time of diagnosis were taken from population censuses.
Socioeconomic status and cancer survival were directly associated in the US cohort, but not in the Canadian cohort. Compared with similar patients in Honolulu, residents of low-income areas in Toronto experienced 5-year survival advantages for breast and prostate cancer. In support of the health insurance hypothesis, between-country differences were smaller than those observed with other state samples and the Canadian advantage was larger among younger women.
Hawaii seems to provide better cancer care than many other states, but patients in Toronto still enjoy a significant survival advantage. Although Hawaii's employer-mandated health insurance coverage seems an effective step toward providing equitable health care, even better care could be expected with a universally accessible, single-payer system.
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