Canadians say they have less confidence and more difficulty accessing health care than Americans
A summer of health care related horror stories – from emergency room closures to doctor shortages to surgery delays – is shaking public faith in what has traditionally been a source of national pride.
A comprehensive new cross-border study of Canadians and Americans from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds those north of the border dealing with considerably more difficulty in accessing care. This is the first in a three-part series canvassing opinion on access to, quality of, and policy towards health care in Canada.
It finds that over the last six months, two-in-five Canadians (41%) – approximately 12.8 million adults – say they either had a difficult time accessing or were totally unable to access one of five key health services: non-emergency care, emergency care, surgery, diagnostic testing, and specialist appointments.
Americans are much less likely to say they encountered barriers to accessing those services, despite near-identical levels of the population seeking this type of care – 70 per cent in the United States and 74 per cent in Canada.
Asked how confident they feel that they could access urgent care in a timely fashion if a household emergency arises, 37 per cent of Canadians are confident while 61 per cent are not. In the United States, 70 per cent are confident, while one-quarter (25%) are not.
To better synthesize a significant amount of response data, Angus Reid Institute researchers created a Health Care Access Index, which finds the smallest group – 15 per cent of the population – enjoying Comfortable Access (approximately 4.7 million Canadian adults). The rest of the country is divided into three groups – those facing Some Challenges (31% – 9.7 million), Chronic Difficulty (29% – 9 million), and those not requiring access during this period (26% – 8.1 million).
More Key Findings:
- Americans are twice as likely as Canadians to report Comfortable Access to health care – 30 per cent compared to 15 per cent respectively.
- In Canada, young women and young men are most likely to be found in the Chronic Difficulty group, compared to their older peers. British Columbians and Atlantic Canadians are also overrepresented in this most challenged category of health care seekers.
- Among those who had easy or very easy access to surgery, 55 per cent say their health has improved over the past six months. Three-in-ten (28%) say their health has stayed the same, while 17 per cent report it as having worsened. Those who had a difficult or impossible experience accessing this type of care are twice as likely (34%) to say their health has worsened since.
The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.