Canadians see increased private healthcare delivery as a threat to public medicare

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Ottawa, ON (Jan. 21, 2013) – Additional private delivery of health services is seen as a threat rather than a complement to the public system in Canada, according to a survey conducted by EKOS Research Associates for The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care.

“Canadians are not particularly optimistic regarding the impacts of private healthcare, with the majority concluding that allowing private services will cause the public system to deteriorate, rather than increasing its efficiency and helping to reduce wait times,” said Louis Thériault, Director, Health Economics.

Many publicly funded healthcare services already are delivered through private enterprises, but Canadians were asked if they believe that allowing more private delivery would improve healthcare in Canada (by encouraging the public sector to become more efficient and relieving pressure on the public organizations), or whether they felt that this would worsen healthcare (by diverting limited resources from the public system).

The majority (60 per cent) of respondents said that allowing private services will cause the public system to deteriorate. Only one-third (36 per cent) see private delivery of healthcare services as a way of improving efficiency and reducing wait times.

Openness to additional private delivery of healthcare services was highest in Alberta, where 48 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that prospect of private delivery of healthcare services could improve efficiency and reduce wait times, while 48 per cent said that allowing private services will cause the public system to deteriorate. Regionally, respondents from Quebec and the Atlantic provinces expressed the most skepticism about more private delivery of health services.

“Private healthcare encompasses many different ideas, including out-of-pocket payments for services and healthcare services delivered by private practitioners, clinics and other institutions. These results show that private delivery of healthcare is still contentious in the country,” said Louis Thériault. “Albertans appear more open to the idea than the rest of Canada.”

Opposition to increased private healthcare service delivery exceeded 60 per cent in each of Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, and reached 56 per cent in British Columbia and the Territories and 55 per cent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Nationally, support for some private delivery of health services is higher among men than women. Support for private delivery increases as income rises. While only 25 per cent of respondents making $20,000 or less supported increased private delivery, 43 per cent of those making $100,000 or more approved of it.

The survey found little support for the idea that individuals should be allowed to pay extra for quicker access to healthcare services – 57 per cent disagreed, while only 32 per cent of respondents agreed with this idea.

Other findings from the survey, which was conducted in April and May 2012 by EKOS Research Associates, found that:

  • Canadians place a great deal of importance on a public healthcare system, with nine in ten (89 per cent) saying access to such a system is important, and only five per cent placing little importance on publicly-funded healthcare;
  • Fully seven in ten (72 per cent) agree that a two-tiered healthcare system exists;
  • Seven in ten (69 per cent) believe Canadian healthcare is becoming more two-tiered, and only three per cent believe it is becoming less two-tiered.

EKOS Research Associates conducted a study to update and refine our understanding of Canadian views on health and the healthcare system. The methodology for this study involved a nationally representative survey of 2,036 Canadians 18 years of age and older. In May 2012, EKOS surveyed 534 Canadians by telephone and 1,502 respondents completed the survey online. The sample source for this study was members of the EKOS panel, which was specifically designed for online/telephone surveys.

The study was supported by the Canadian Medical Association, Accreditation Canada and the Conference Board’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC). Launched in 2011, CASHC is a five-year Conference Board program of research and dialogue. It will delve deeply into facets of Canada’s healthcare challenge, including the financial, workplace, and institutional dimensions, in an effort to develop forward-looking qualitative and quantitative analysis and solutions to make the system more sustainable.

As part of the CASHC initiative, the Conference Board is hosting the Western Summit on Sustainable Health in Edmonton on May 22-23.

SOURCE: Conference Board of Canada