The United States and Canada launched their own Medicare programs over 50 years ago, providing health insurance to thousands of people. While the program’s structures are different, there are some similarities. We’ll explain the key differences in both programs, including coverage, plans, and more.
Canadian Medicare vs. United States Medicare
In the mid-1960s, the U.S. and Canada launched their own respective versions of Medicare. Soon after, U.S. lawmakers faced backlash from health care industry groups because of the eligibility requirements. The U.S. health care system mainly provides coverage for seniors and people with specific, serious health conditions.
Meanwhile, Canada received some praise for its program structure because all Canadians have access to coverage regardless of age or income. One of the downsides to Canada’s health care system is that each province (territory) determines what services are medically necessary.
Funding is another noticeable difference between both programs. American Medicare has a private health care system. It’s a federal program funded through the recipient’s payroll taxes. Citizens have a percentage subtracted from their paychecks that goes toward Medicare. On the other hand, Canada operates on a single-payer system, which means Canada’s health care system is publicly funded.
Is Canadian Medicare Better Than American Medicare?
Compared to Americans, Canadians spend less money on health care expenses, but Canada’s health care system has its own problems. Canada is known for its unfavorable wait times for specialists, elective procedures, and more. Reports show there aren’t enough primary care doctors for the population. For instance and it can take many weeks for patients to see a specialist after receiving a referral from their doctor.
Some patients wait almost four months for treatment from a specialist. Generally, Canadian hospitals prioritize appointments for life-threatening issues. On a positive note, residents can choose their primary doctor.
In America, the debate over Medicare continues to divide lawmakers in Washington D.C. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 26.1 million Americans didn’t have health insurance at any point during the year 2019. This means 8% of Americans had very limited access to health care.
Is Canadian Medicare Free?
Canadian Medicare is not free. Funding for Canadian Medicare comes from federal and provincial taxes. The government does not cover all medical costs, which could result in higher out-of-pocket costs. Services like dental visits, vision care, and prescription drugs are do not receive coverage. Instead, private or employer-based insurance pays for them. On a positive note, since their health insurance is public, there are no deductibles.
According to Fraser Institute, Canadians spend an average of $5,789 annually on taxes for health care coverage. This is significantly lower than the $10,000 that each American spends on average. Your income determines how much you pay in taxes. People who have higher incomes pay more in taxes, which helps fund health care for families who earn less.
Medical services covered through Canadian tax dollars include:
- Hospital stays
- Surgical and maternity services (for example, childbirth, prenatal care and more)
- Prescription drugs while in the hospital
Why Canadians are eligible for Medicare but NOT premium-free Part A
Canadian residents receive employee benefits through a refundable tax credit called work credits. These credits help people with low incomes. Canada approves work credits for employees who earn at least six credits (1.5 years of work). Since Canadians’ work credits do not transfer over for Medicare, they can enroll but are not eligible for premium-free Part A.
What Does Canadian Medicare Cover that U.S. Medicare Does Not?
Both health systems cover identical services, although prices and treatment are different.
Canadian Supplemental Options vs. Medigap
As we mentioned above, Canada’s health care system doesn’t cover everything. Luckily, residents can purchase supplemental coverage through private insurance companies for extra coverage. These plans are Canada’s equivalent of Medicare Advantage in the States. Canadian employees also have the option of obtaining additional coverage from their employer. Canada’s supplemental plans pay for services such as prescription drugs, routine and enhanced dental procedures, and prescription eyewear.
In the U.S., private insurance companies sell Medigap coverage, also called Medicare Supplement insurance. Medigap policies help “fill in the gaps” for medical costs not covered by Original Medicare, including coverage for deductibles and coinsurance. While Medigap is available in each state, coverage may be different.
Pharmacare vs. Medicare Part D
Canada is the only country in the world that has universal health care with no universal drug coverage. In order to help residents with medication costs, Canada launched a national prescription drug insurance plan called Pharmacare. Pharmacare gives Canadians access to prescription medication based on their need rather than their ability to pay. The program offers several drug plans but only covers certain prescriptions.
How to Enroll in Medicare After Moving to the U.S. from Canada
Enrolling in Parts A and B is easy. Just go to Medicare.gov and fill out the online application. After signing up, you should consider purchasing supplemental coverage like Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and/or Part D to save money in the long run. You can sign up with our licensed agents by calling the number above or filling out our online rate form.