Comparison of One aspect of the Canadian and Australian Health Care Systems
Health care is an important aspect of human life. Every country ensures that its citizens get adequate health care in terms of facilities and services. In Australia, government and private institutions provide health care under the Ministry of Health and Ageing. All services and activities within the healthcare sector are governed by Australian healthcare policies that have to be observed by every healthcare specialist or institution. In Canada, health care is funded publicly through income taxes. The health care system is then monitored by the country’s federal standards. Every Canadian citizen enrolling with a legal card is provided with health care services by the country’s Ministry of Health. The Canadian government is obligated with providing all the basic health care with every patient being in a position of receiving the same level of care. In the country, the government does not provide any health care that is not considered basic. This paper will be based on bringing out the comparison between healthcare policy issues in Canada and Australia. In comparison, both differences and similarities are analyzed. There is a need to research the health policy issues in the two countries, which could appear similar in terms of the systems of governments but are largely different in their health care sectors.
In Canada, the system of health care consists of socialized groups of health insurance plans, which provide health care coverage to all citizens of Canada. The system is funded publicly but its administration is done from a territorial basis. The federal government, however, sets guidelines that should be followed by each of the Canadian territories. Every citizen is provided with preventive care as well as medical treatments that are considered primary. All citizens have the right to access various hospitals of choice without being objected on any basis. Regardless of various factors such as medical history, standards of living, or personal income, every Canadian citizen is qualified to access to medical care within the country.
The two introductory cases of Canadian health care system and the Australian health care system show that there are various aspects that portray similarities in the policies within the health care sectors as well as some contradicting aspects of the two systems. The Canadian government funds the sector with the help of insurance coverage by individuals while the Australian government makes it that every citizen gets access to primary healthcare and takes care of his or her healthcare bills if the health condition is not within the primary limits. The two countries have local governments that control individual health care at the regional level but the level of authority differs significantly.
Health care has been a government concern since the time of civilization. Today the government strives to ensure that they achieve high economic growth and development. Significant development of any country comes to a realizable point only if the country has adequate human resources. Making enough human resources by a country happens with a consideration of the health care sector just like the case of Canada and Australia. In Canada, there have been some reform agendas focusing on the health sector. The reform happened in phases with the first phase focusing on the integration of healthcare services through regionalization as well as a rebalancing of various healthcare services that included health care on illnesses, preventive health care, and healthcare wellness. The second phase of the health care reforms was layered on the first phase and focused on the country’s fiscal sustainability specifically from the country’s provincial perspective. Various commissions were appointed to determine the future of the Canadian health care policies but there was hardly any certain projection.
The Canadian health reforms or health policies could be compared to those of Australia. The comparison on the two countries’ health reforms have been done in terms of integration of services through regionalization, reforms on primary health care, and reforms on aboriginal health. The issue of the public sector and privatization of healthcare facilities have also been considered in comparing the two countries together with other aspects like intergovernmental relations as well the federal government’s role in health care.
In Canada, the country’s modernity in health care policies and reforms started with the implementation of the country’s Health Act of 1984. From the Act, the federal government of Canada through its legislation locked several Acts that existed on the health care sector, which included the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act of 1958 as well as the Canadian Medical Care Act of 1966. The Act was implemented to create a system of health care in which citizens could receive free health care services within the provincial level (Marchildon 106). Three years after the enactment of the Act saw some of the country’s provinces being penalized because of allowing health care administration to charge some fees to healthcare consumers. The Canada Health Act was initiated to facilitate five key principles that include public administration. The five principles were meant to provide a framework in which various Medicare systems in thirteen provinces and territories would maintain their growth and innovativeness in a separate way. Their growth and innovativeness was to be ensured while the Medicare systems provided all Canadian citizens with health care coverage that has a common entitlement.
Within a period of two decades, the Health Act in Canada has seen the achievement iconic status. The Act has led to massive developments in the Canadian health sector and facilitated changes the Canadian federal government role in health care. The federal government has decreased its fiscal role and responsibilities for health care. The reforms in health care were being done help in easing the government from its burden in taking care of the health care sector in terms of finances. The only significant concern from the federal government on the sector has remained to be overseeing of the policy structures and that every health institution and health personnel works in line with the health policies that are in place.
Various evidences exist to show disagreement and factors supporting the health policies and reforms that exist in both Canada and Australia. In Canada, the government has reduced it federal obligations on the health sector. It can be argued that the reforms in the Canadian health sector were done to relieve the government off its many responsibilities. According to Marchildon (106), Canada was ranked second by 1987 globally in terms per capita expenditure in health care.
The trend kept on going down with a full implementation of the Health Act of 1984 that aimed at relieving the federal government from having full responsibility on health care. This withdrawal from taking full responsibility in health care is seen as a vice by many given that the Federal government of Canada should be the main funding body for health care (Madore). The government role in the health care sector in Canada is viewed from its activities in the insurance market. The federal role has declined to a point of offering only basic health care to its citizens. The government participates by ensuring a good system in the health insurance sector. Its participation, in this case, is seen to help in creating efficiencies (Madore). The argument here is that the government has not withdrawn completely from ensuring good health and accessibility of health services and facilities by all Canadians.
The government intervention has been increased through its policies, a factor that helps in correcting potential problems in social equity particularly in the health insurance market. Cases of private health insurance companies issuing coverage under the payment of elevated premiums or their refusal to issue health coverage to high-risk clients has reduced greatly due to the government participation and increased health policies (Madore). It is also maintained that private insurance markets hardly show regard for equity in economic aspects. All people are subjected to the same insurance fee structures irrespective of their levels of income. Government policies in the health insurance sector ensure that there is economic equity and that private insurance companies do not exploit health insurance clients.
Insurance companies run the health care system in Canada; they insure the health care clients. The intervention of the government is of substance given that the business would otherwise be filled with cases of unfairness and less economic considerations. Most of the private insurance companies hardly work with a goal of eradicating health problems but they work towards the creating of grounds that would see them earn more profits. An important consideration of health care consumers could be the determination of the population in terms of the most vulnerable people and who benefit most from the health care systems (Leslie, Brennan, Prior, Lix, Metge, and Elias, 933). Healthcare insurance companies that are run publicly are fur much better than the private institutions since the public health insurance companies yield higher efficiencies through reduced administrative costs as well as economies of scale (Madore). The public health care insurance sector offers health insurance cover at lower premiums than the private companies. The government works in favor of public health insurance in order to ensure that all Canadians have adequate access to health care facilities and services at fair prices.
The health policies that govern the public health insurance, however, are based on the citizens’ income taxes. In Canada, it is required that all people do their tax contribution according to the size of their incomes. The policies hardly through people’s contribution in accordance with any benefits they have expectations on from the health care facilities or the public health insurance (Madore).
Private health care clinic are also facing competition from the publicly-owned hospitals and health clinics. In most case, private institutions offer health insurance coverage to cover health care mainly in the private health facilities. The privately-owned health insurance institutions have more clients due to its governance by the federal government that in turn ensures economic equity. The policies have suppressed the private clinics in favor of the public health care institutions that accommodate many Canadian citizens (Brooks 647). It is argued that despite the fact that the federal direct obligations in health care have decreased greatly, the health policies have contributed to affordable health care by every Canadian citizen through public health insurance regulations. The regulations and policies also ensure that every Canadian is eligible to accessing health care irrespective of his or her income and that all citizens should hardly pay for their basic health care requirements.
In Australia, health policy has been a controversial topic and a major issue since the 1940s. The health policies provide that all Australians are eligible to getting basic health care services under the governance of the local governments although it has been faced with various failures arising from the discrimination against some groups of people in the country (Neysmith 161). The providers of health care services are seen to work under guidance by conflicting objectives.
Some of the health care service providers are motivated by high profits while others want to make innovative grounds and improve the quality of health care in Australia (Gray). Gray provides that while some providers aim at making high profits, heal care consumers are usually after accessing quality health services that are offered at affordable prices. The government, on the other hand, wants to ensure that tight control is maintained while expanding the sector through monetary policies. A controversy is said to arise when the objective from the four categories of health care participants can hardly be achieved simultaneously. Some individuals such as the country’s Liberal Party in collaboration with its partner and the National Party have always claimed that the Australian Government should reduce its intervention in the country’s health policy. The argument is that there should be an increased role of the private sector as well as an increased private health insurance (Gray).
According to Gay, the Australian Labor Party was once arguing the same until it changed its stand to take a position of social liberty. From the social liberal position, the Australian Labor Party has argued that health should be financed publicly to facilitate health care access and economic equity as an objective. The private health insurance sector, like in Canada, hardly focuses on ensuring economic equity but on promoting profitability. Australia has a unique oscillation between the private and public health insurance systems among all countries that are within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (Gray). The Australian government could be said to value health more than defense since the health industry is the country’s largest industry according to Gay. The industry offers opportunities that are characterized by great financial gains. According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, the health industry took 9.5 per cent of Australian GDP in the 2002/2003 national budget. This percentage is in fact one percent higher than the health expenditure average in the OECD countries.
Unlike the Canadian government, which has withdrawn most of its financial obligations on the health sector, Australia policies encourage government contributions in terms of policy regulations and funding. In Australia, government funding is hardly done directly, but through increased access to basic health care and introduction of novel technologies. The cost of secondary healthcare, however, increases due to increased technology in the health care sector thereby creating more controversies among health care consumers. It is argued that the government does so to gain more from the health sector (Hilless and Healy, 97).
The Australian government participation in healthcare has been argued as the key ground for increasing health inflation. Increased government spending on health care causes increased health inflation. According to Miller, Benjamin and North, increased government-spending leads to increased money supply in an economy and consequently elevated aggregated demand and eventually inflation (61). The increased health care expenditure spreads to the private health care sector increasing their resistance on the fact that the Australian government employs efforts to curb the problem in the growing expenses in health care. Professional from the private healthcare argue that the issue of government expenditure directly on health care should cease but find other ways of participating such as through health care policies that encourage health insurance.
Like in Canada’s health insurance sector, the private health insurance in Australia hardly takes any account of individuals’ abilities to pay. The health insurance has its premiums being levied at an equal rate. This aspect of flat rates creates a situation of burdening the individuals with low-income level (Gray). The resulting effect is the creation of financial barriers in accessing health care and challenging the government’s obligation in ensuring equity in the Australian health care system.
What has to be considered in this research paper is how the two governments have done in their efforts of ensuring good policies are initiated to guide their health care systems. Some of the differences in health care could be caused by the differences between the two countries in terms of political and economic aspects although they are both members of the OECD. At the same time, most of Australia’s climate is tropical while Canada experiences temperate climate, a situation, which may call for different policies emanating from the kind of health problems that exist in the two countries as well as the demand for health care services. The difference should not be the basis for the destructive policies in Australia that lead to increased health care prices (May 573).
Health care policies in Australia are administered by the country’s Ministry for Health and Ageing and are less superior to those of Canada in terms of efficiencies in the system. The problem in health policies in Australia is further extended by the unfair consideration of aboriginal concepts of health (Lutschini). The operation of every individual hospital is overseen by the state within which the hospital is situated in Australia but the federal government in Canada oversees the entire health care sector in all the countries territories. This aspect aids in health policy implementations. Some people finding the Canadian health care system unworthy may hardly consider the cost implications given that the government hardly ensures economic equity in the system. Australia can only get out of its health inflation mess by acting like Canada through policies that minimize government participation in health care but ensuring economic equity in health insurance.
The importance of the health care sectors in both Canada and Australia should hardly be taken lightly. The two countries are member of the OECD countries with high development records in almost all economic sectors. Canada has had reforms to relieve the government from its heavy financial task in health sector since the introduction of the Health Act 1984. The country has gradually withdrew its obligations and encourages individual obligation in health care, an aspect that has been argued against considering that any government should consider its health care sector as a major factor in economic growth. Canadian government saw that indirect participation through health insurance could be the best option to encourage economic equity given that each Canadian would contribute health insurance payment through a progressive income tax system. Through the system, individuals could contribute to health care in accordance with their income abilities rather than the social benefit they expect. This progressive tax contribution is the best way of ensuring economic equity in health care.
Australia’s government has kept on participating directly in its health care sector; this has always created health inflation problem. The government has not been able to deal with the fix premium rates problem in the private health insurance since private sectors blames its health policies for contributing to high prices in health care. It is advisable for the government to take the Canadian government footsteps and minimize its government participation in health care. The government should instead focus on health insurance policies and increase the public insurance funding through a ‘pay-as-you-earn’ tax system. The new system would thereby contribute to economic equity in health care and equal access to health facilities and services.
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Gray, Gwen. Health policy in Australia. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <http://apo.org.au/commentary/health-policy-australia>.
Hilless M. and Healy J. Health Care Systems in Transition: Australia 2001. Copenhagen: European Observatory on Health Care Systems. Sidney: World Health Organisation, 2001. Print.
Leslie, W. D., et al. “The post-fracture care gap among Canadian First Nations peoples: a retrospective cohort study.” Osteoporosis International 23.3 (2012): 929-936.
Lutschini, Mark. Engaging with holism in Australian Aboriginal health policy – a review. Australia and New Zealand Health Policy 2.15 (2005). Web. 1 Mar. 2013. <http://www.anzhealthpolicy.com/content/2/1/15>.
Madore, Odette. The Canada Health Act: Overview and Options. Web. 16 May. 2005. Web. 1 Apr. 2013 <http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/944-e.htm>.
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