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February 13, 2006

An American Physician in the Canadian Health Care System

Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(3):281-282. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.3.281

One of the most striking differences between Canada and the United States is the method by which each country provides health care to its citizens.1-5 Canadian health care follows a socialized model in which the government is the sole reimbursement agent. American health care is a market-based system in which multiple third-party payers are responsible for reimbursement. The percentage of gross domestic product spent on health care in the United States is consistently much greater than in Canada.6-8 As a result of these high expenditures, the Canadian health care system is often cited as a model for a future US single-payer system. However, American patients, physicians, and other health care providers are largely unaware of the day-to-day workings of the Canadian system. Having worked within both the Canadian and American health care systems, I present some of my personal observations.