October 24th, 2020


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on January 1, 2020.

By Milagros Palacios

and Bacchus Barua

The Fraser Institute

The fall federal election showed that politicians across the spectrum are happy to promise to spend more on our government-run health-care system. Whether the spending is for long-term care or pharmacare, the political solution to any health-care problem seems to be to pump more money into it.

Of course, the Canadian taxpayer is stuck with the bill.

So just how large of a tab did we run up last year?

While it’s fairly easy to obtain a receipt for our health-care bill ($163 billion in 2018), most Canadians remain unaware of their individual contributions. This is through no fault of their own. It’s primarily because general government revenues – not a dedicated tax – finance health care in Canada. That means we pay for health care through a variety of taxes, including income, sales and so-called sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco.

Even per-person estimates ($4,389) are misleading because Canadians don’t pay equal amounts of tax each year. For example, children and dependents are not taxpayers.

Meanwhile, health insurance premiums in provinces that impose them only cover a fraction of the true cost of health care, which further exacerbates the confusion.

In reality, the amount we pay for health care through the tax system depends on family income and size. And while difficult, it’s possible to estimate these relative contributions using data from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information. A recent study by the Fraser Institute does just that.

Calculating estimates across six common family types, the study finds that a typical Canadian family (two parents, two children) with an average household income of $140,049 will pay $13,311 for public health care this year. A single-parent family with two children (earning $65,858) will pay $3,833.

The amount individual Canadian families pay for health care varies widely across the income spectrum. For example, the 10 per cent of families with the lowest incomes (earning $15,070 per household, on average) will pay $464 for health care in 2019 while families in the top 10 per cent of income earners (with a household income of $298,872, on average) will pay $39,486.

Why should we care how much Canadian families pay for health care?

Because knowing how much we pay enables us to better judge whether we receive good value for our health-care dollars. For example, while some Canadians may consider these amounts reasonable for a system that provides life-saving treatment in the emergency room, others may rue the fact that despite spending thousands of dollars, they had to wait more than 26 weeks for neurosurgery last year.

By comparing how much families annually contribute towards the public system, we can better understand the impact of the growing burden of public health care.

For example, between 1997 and 2019, the cost of public health care for the average Canadian family grew 1.7 times faster than the average income. However – again due to the complex nature of how we pay for health care – many Canadians are unaware of this unsustainable growth in the cost of health care relative to their incomes.

These numbers should help disabuse Canadians of any notion that we have a ‘free’ health-care system. Families across Canada pay a lot for health care through our tax system, and it’s important they know just how much of the $163-billion bill is on their tab.

Milagros Palacios and Bacchus Barua are analysts at the Fraser Institute. Distributed by Troy Media.

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Southern Albertan

Perhaps, then, again, if we think we should have improvements, we could look to another health care system which has been said to be the best in the world. There’s nothing like some suggestions for improvement, me thinks…..
“Healthcare in The Netherlands: A guide to the Dutch health care system. The Netherlands is known for its universal and excellent standard of health care and it’s regularly rated as one of the best health care systems in the world.”
“Quick facts from the article are:
-Type of healthcare: Universal (with mandatory private insurance…more coverage means higher rate of insurance)
-Average cost of an emergency room visit: 256 euros/$300 American
-Average cost of a doctor’s visit:47 euros/USD$55
-Number of pharmacies: 1,975
-Number of hospitals: 93
-Population % covered by health insurance: 99%”
Read on for more on the average cost of health care there, eg.,”children under the age of 18 don’t pay for health insurance.”
Even Tommy Douglas, the Father of Universal Health Care said that it would have to be rejigged over time.
With regard to governments practicing health care statecraft while begetting equal wealth distribution, it is important to remember that poverty begets poor health. Poverty and poor health, if allowed to be dragged on, is more expensive in the end when health issues become more critical. This is why it could be said that for the ‘state’ to generate a good, universal health care system is a proactive investment, saving money in the end, since, again, money always talks. The Dutch, the inventors of capitalism, know this only too well.
And myself, being a 4th generation offspring of Dutch immigration and having visited relatives (who stayed there) in The Netherlands this past summer, we did observe that despite every country having its troubles, the folks in The Netherlands, on the whole, have an excellent standard of living. They do have a small country with a very dense population though. Canada, on the other hand, it could be said that the country is too big for the amount of people. One of the 3 biggest expenses for health care in Canada is rural health care-very expensive because of the distances. Canada, as well, is disadvantaged in many ways by having given the provinces individual powers. Certainly a universal health care system country-wide would make things much more smooth.
Some naysayers, too, call The Netherlands a “nanny state.” Well, if equal wealth distribution generates folks having a good education, good employment, good health care, rooves over heads, good nutrition…..etc. then ‘nanny state,’ it is. 🙂
It boils down to the social conservative mantra of ‘get off your butt and help yourself,’ or, the social democrat mantra of ‘giving a hand up’ for the good of all and for a more equal and less restless society, while still allowing for individual wealth.


Yes, it’s always quite a shock to learn that the health services that all Canadians benefit from costs money – thanks to the Fraser Institute for uncovering this.

I suppose we can always choose to go to private health care, where we can pay even more for less. I know I would sleep well at night knowing that the rich would be able to have shorter wait times (getting rid of all of those working poor who wouldn’t be able to pay the for-profit insurance rates).

Though we are well aware that the Fraser Institute shills for the corporate rich, it is interesting to note that that they overlooked the fact that the national defense budget grew at an even greater rate than health care services over the period mentioned. I look forward to seeing the Fraser Institute report on this (https://www.ceasefire.ca/ccpa-report-canadian-military-spending-highest-since-ww2/)

For any readers out there, I would recommend Linda McQuaig’s new book on the Canadian ethos as it relates to topics like this. Tantalizingly, even the Trudeau bashers might find things of interest. Happy New Year.


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