Across Canada, coverage is similar for primary care, specialty care and hospital care, but significant differences exist in extended care within each province. For instance, eye examinations are considered additional benefits within the Medical Service Plan in British Columbia. And while the basic medical plan is commonly referred to as Medicare, most provinces use a different name for this coverage.
Many Canadians, either through their employers or on their own, are also covered by private health insurance of which the level of coverage varies according to the plan purchased.
A decade ago, the Government of Canada started work on a “10-Year Plan to Strengthen Healthcare,”3 for the Canadian healthcare system, in which wait-time reduction was a key area of focus. In 2007, Canadian provinces and territories publicly committed to establish Patient Wait-Times Guarantees4 that define a reasonable timeframe for accessing care, depending on the procedure and health impacts.
While the number of procedures performed per year has continued to rise, wait-times for priority procedures have remained virtually unchanged.5 In fact, the country is seeing an increase in health needs: the baby boom generation is getting older, arthritis rates are on the rise, and the national population has grown by 1.5 million people in the last four years.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information has developed indicators to estimate current wait-times for medical priorities in each province or territory. Monthly reports are posted on its website and tables are updated on a real-time basis. Wait-time measurement is defined as
the time from when a decision is made between patient and doctor that a procedure is required and the date at which the procedure is performed.