Gaps in medicare affect one-third of Canadians, poll shows

Ottawa, Aug. 7, 2012 – More than one-third of Canadians have gone or have had a family member go without needed health care because of insufficient insurance coverage, a new poll indicates.

The Ipsos Reid poll, carried out on behalf of the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF) and the Institute for Health Economics, showed that 36 per cent of respondents have personally gone without needed health care because of insufficient coverage and 34 per cent have a family member who has gone without. The gap in care is highest among those in Atlantic Canada, lower-income earners, women, and those who are self-employed, work part time or are unemployed.

“Our medicare system that covers only physician and hospital care was designed when these were the most important forms of treating patients,” said Dr. John Haggie, president of the CMA. “Public health coverage has not kept up with medical advancements that see more and more Canadians being treated through advanced surgical treatments and new pharmaceuticals.”

The survey also found that two in three respondents (66 per cent) expressed concern about the possibility of a reduction in government insured health services in the next few years. A large majority of those surveyed, 82 per cent, have some form of supplementary health coverage. Coverage is most common among those who are employed and those with annual household incomes of at least $60,000. Half of respondents support a public supplementary health benefits program funded by increased taxes.

“With close to one-fifth of Canadians – that’s six million people – lacking supplementary health care coverage, this is clearly a gap that needs to be addressed,” said Maureen O’Neil, CEO of the CHSRF. “When people can’t afford the health care they need, there are economic costs both through reduced productivity and greater health care expenditures down the road.”

In a related survey of employers, three in four expressed concern that the government will reduce coverage of insured health services over the next few years. Employers were split on whether there should be a tax-funded program for supplementary health benefits.

Two online surveys of 2,020 Canadians were conducted by Ipsos April 23 to 30, 2012. An online survey of 500 employers was conducted May 7 to 14, 2012.