Healthcare Benchmarking of the US and Canada

A health-care system is a complex arrangement of health services. The essence of any health-care system is to provide access to health-care services for all people. Different organizational structures, institutions, and resources are involved in this process. A diverse array of health-care systems can be found all across the globe because every country has a unique system that was developed under the influence of a mixed variety of factors such as the country’s history, structure, traditions, and more. The aim of this paper is to compare the health-care systems of the United States and Canada. Although these two systems display some cultural similarities, a few significant differences are evident between them.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of the United States’ Health-Care System

To begin with, some advantages and disadvantages have arisen from the United States’ health-care system. First, Moses et al. (2013) have underlined that there are about 21 million people working in the health-care sector in the United States. This number equals 15.7% of the workforce. Another advantage of the health-care system in the United States is the fact that it probably has the best medical research system in the world.

However, the system also has some disadvantages. The major disadvantage of the United States’ health-care system is the fact that there are a lot of underinsured or uninsured citizens. Furthermore, according to Moses et al. (2013), “in 2011, spending on health was $2.7 trillion or 17.9% of Gross Domestic Product” (p. 1949). Although the United States of America spends much more money on its health-care system in comparison with many other countries, Americans are not healthier than the citizens of those countries that spend less on health.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Canadian Health-Care System

The biggest advantage of the health-care system in Canada is the fact that any Canadian citizen can obtain health care. G. Ridic, Gleason, and O. Ridic (2012) stated that “with minor exceptions, health coverage is available to all residents with no out of pocket charges” (para. 5). Canadian individuals have the basic right to have access to the health-care system. Students, pensioners, the unemployed, and disabled people are able to access medical services without any insurance. As another advantage, the Canadian health-care system pays significant attention to people with special needs and provides special facilities for disabled people.

Moreover, the health-care system in Canada provides special facilities for veterans. Nevertheless, for every plus there is a minus. Wait-lists are the issue attracting the most criticism. Common sense dictates that an emergency patient is to be treated first. However, due to limited resources, increasing numbers of Canadian residents are experiencing difficulties with access to health-care services. In addition, not enough health-care organizations are available in rural places in Canada. People living in rural areas have to go to cities to find appropriate medical help.

Quality, Access, and Cost of Health Care

It is worth mentioning that the health-care system in the United States is not universal and that the quality of health care in the United States of America varies from state to state. In any event, the overall quality of the American health-care system is worse in comparison with the quality of the Canadian system. Both the United States of America and Canada are facing some problems with regard to access to health-care services.

As mentioned above, many underinsured or uninsured people living in the United States of America do not have access to appropriate medical services. As for residents of Canada, it can be difficult to find health care due to time and location issues. The cost of medical services is a stumbling block for the health-care systems in the United States and Canada. Both are very costly. While a citizen of the United States of America is required to buy an expensive medical insurance policy, the user of Canadian medical services has to pay extra fees.

Health-Care Benchmarks

To understand the differences between the health-care systems of the United States and Canada, it is necessary to compare the overall health of the residents of these two countries using some benchmarks. It was mentioned previously that the United States spends almost 18% of its gross domestic product on health. In contrast, Mossialos, Wenzl, Osborn, and Anderson (2016) stressed that Canada spent about 11% of the country’s gross domestic product on its health-care system in 2013.

However, a larger percentage does not mean a better quality of health care. Although the United States spends more money on its health-care system, it cannot be said that Americans are healthier than Canadians, and this fact can be confirmed by a few health-care benchmark statistics. For instance, Mossialos et al. (2016) emphasized that in 2013, the average life expectancy was 81.4 and 78.1 years for Canada and the United States respectively. As for infant mortality rate, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (n.d.), there were 4.6 deaths per 1,000 births in Canada and 5.8 deaths per 1,000 births in the United States.


In summary, it can be concluded that although the Canadian health-care system is relatively costly, it is considered to be effective. The Canadian health-care system offers more services. Furthermore, the Canadian health-care system is universal. Finally, compared to the system in the United States, Canadian health care is not as expensive. It is worth mentioning that large health-care costs do not mean better services. In addition, this idea can be confirmed by the fact that the citizens of the United States have shorter life expectancies and higher infant mortality rates in comparison with Canadian residents.


Moses, H., Matheson, D. H., Dorsey, E. R., George, B. P., Sadoff, D., & Yoshimura, S. (2013). The anatomy of health care in the United States. Jama, 310(18), 1947-1964.

Mossialos, E., Wenzl, M., Osborn, R., & Anderson, C. (2016). 2015 international profiles of health care systems. The Commonwealth Fund.

Ridic, G., Gleason, S., & Ridic, O. (2012). Comparisons of health care systems in the United States, Germany and Canada. Materia socio-medica, 24(2), 112.

The Central Intelligence Agency (n.d.). The world factbook. Web.