Whether it's work, play or you're planning to stay - it's worth understanding the Canadian health care system before traveling. There's enough similarity in language and titles, particularly for U.S. travelers, that a little explanation is warranted. A public-private partnership Canada's health care system operates predominantly as a single-payer system. In Canada, that single payer is Canadian government, and funds for medical services come from tax dollars. Public funding accounts for roughly 70 percent of health care expenditures in Canada, according to a 2014 report from The Commonwealth Fund. The remaining services are covered under private insurance plans that are generally made available to employees in the workplace. Vision, dental and prescription drugs are the big three, but private insurance may also cover things like physical therapy and in-home care. The Canadian government is very transparent with regards to the health care system's performance. Wait times, a topic that receives a lot of scrutiny from both consumers and critics of single-payer systems, are publicly available online.
"Public funding accounts for 70 percent of health care in Canada."
It's also worth noting that the Canadian public health insurance program is called Medicare. For U.S. citizens, Medicare is the public program that kicks in at age 65. In Canada, Medicare covers everyone, regardless of age. What if I'm traveling in Canada? A medical situation away from home is bound to be challenging. For Canadians, there are provisions to maintain coverage while traveling within the country. Each of Canada's 10 provinces and three territories maintain their own Medicare program. But what about foreign travelers within Canadian borders? Are public services free - or even available - for guests? Government organizations aren't stereotypically known for clear, succinct statements. On this point, however, the Canadian government is both brief and direct, saying, "Canada does not pay for hospital or medical services for visitors. You should get health insurance to cover any medical costs before you come to Canada." If you're visiting Canada for work or vacation, make sure to take appropriate measures to ensure you're covered. Take good care Before entering a foreign country, it's both reasonable and wise to consider what options might be available for travelers. Canada has made the decision to provide universal care to its citizens. However, like most countries around the world, their statement regarding publicly funded medical services for guests is highly unambiguous. The U.S. embassy in Ottawa urges travelers to check their coverage before leaving the states, as many domestic insurance policies do not provide for overseas or out-of-country coverage. It can't hurt to ask, so check with your provider before traveling. Private Canadian insurers offer a variety of flexible medical plans for guests. Whether you're headed to Canada for a once in a lifetime vacation or intending to travel back and forth a dozen times, coverage is available to grant access to Canada's physicians, hospitals and clinics. Plan ahead, understand of how the system works and enjoy exploring Canada.