Canadian Medical Association

Canadian Medical Association

August 15, 2005 00:01 ET

CMA Report Card Finds Health Debate Needs a Good Dose of Fact

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 15, 2005) - The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) today released its fifth annual National Report Card on Health Care, which found a big difference between public perception and reality when it came to the performance of the country's health care system.

"What this report card tells us is that there's been too much rhetoric and too little open, honest debate about health care," said Dr. Albert Schumacher, President of the CMA. "That's the kind of debate Canada's physicians are having in Edmonton this week at our General Council."

As in years past, Canadians were asked to grade a number of aspects of the current health care system and rate their level of access to services. In the 2005 survey, Canadians were also asked to estimate how well Canada's health care system compares with other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Among the key findings were that private health care plays a far greater role in Canada than people believe and access to doctors is far worse than Canadians think.

Investment in health care

Canadians generally feel that Canada is among the best when it comes to publicly funded health care and ranked it 10th in the OECD in terms of the proportion of total health funding by governments. In fact, two-thirds of all OECD countries have a more publicly funded health care system than Canada and our actual ranking is 21st.

Respondents thought Canada was 12th in terms of how much out-of-pocket expenses Canadians incur for health care, while the OECD ranks Canada 7th. Only six other OECD countries require their citizens to spend more of their own money on health care than Canada.

"The CMA supports a strong publicly funded health care system where access is based on need, not ability to pay," said Dr. Schumacher. "But we can't hide from the fact that about 30% of health care in this country is already privately-financed."


The Report Card also shows that Canadians believe they get better value for their health-care dollar than may actually be the case. While respondents slightly overestimated their access to technology and hospital beds, they significantly overestimate Canadians' access to doctors. They ranked Canada 13th in terms of the number of physicians per capita. The actual OECD ranking is 26th or the bottom third of member countries.

"I'm sure respondents felt that they were being fairly conservative in their estimates," said Schumacher. "The fact that Canada is in the bottom third on a number of key OECD indicators - such as access and public funding - would probably come as a shock to them. It's certainly a very powerful illustration of the extent to which the health system has been allowed to deteriorate."

A downward trend

Report card data from the past five years shows a slow but steady downward trend in Canadians' assessment of their health care system. While the system gets a B grade overall, as it has in past years, respondents were less likely this year to award an A grade on any aspect of health care in Canada. This decline in Canadians' view of the current state of the system is matched by a gradual year-over-year decline in people's optimism for the future.

The only area where the plurality of respondents awarded an A grade was access to a family doctor. However, Canadians without a family doctor gave this item an F grade. These grades suggest that people who have a family doctor are very happy with the care they are receiving.

"This is perhaps the most reassuring and, at the same time, the most frustrating thing in this Report Card for me as a physician," concluded Dr. Schumacher. "This tells me patients feel their doctors do a great job for their patients, but see the system is letting them down. That's why the CMA has been active offering solutions like Wait Time Alliance benchmarks, care guarantees and solutions to health human resources shortages. It's about building a system that puts patients first."


Between July 11 and 15, 2005, Ipsos-Reid surveyed 1,006 Canadian adults. This sample provides a reasonable margin of error for the overall national findings (± 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20).

Media can access the embargoed Report Card at:

Contact Information

  • Canadian Medical Association
    Carole Lavigne
    Manager, Media Relations
    On Friday, August 12
    1 (800) 663-7336 ext. 1266
    From August 14-17
    At Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton (AB)
    (780) 442-0711