Given the choice between a private and a public health care system, Canadians overwhelmingly choose the latter. But insert a third option – a mixed public/private system – and the country is less certain.
A poll by Ipsos-Reid for Postmedia News and Global News finds that 80 per cent of Canadians prefer the “not-for-profit” health care model, where services are delivered by the public sector. Only 20 per cent would rather have a “for-profit” system delivered by the private sector.
Not surprisingly, support for the public system is higher among the poorest Canadians (83 per cent) and lowest among the richest people in the country (75 per cent). Nevertheless, that even three-quarters of those most able to afford a private system still prefer public health care is a strong indication of how much Canadians believe in our model.
But that faith in Canadian health care is not unconditional. When given the choice between a fully private system, a completely public system, and a mixed model that would provide a public option as well as the choice to seek and pay for medical services in the private sector, a majority of Canadians (53 per cent) prefer the “mixed” model. Support for such a system is highest in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada and lowest in Alberta, while 39 per cent nationwide still choose the public system.
Here again, the wealthiest Canadians (64 per cent) are most likely to prefer the mixed system, while only 48 per cent of Canadians who earn $40,000/year or less feel the same.
Interestingly, however, university graduates are the most split demographic on the issue: 47 per cent prefer the public model while 49 per cent want a mixed model. These Canadians (being the most educated are also likely to be among the wealthiest) could be weighing the pros and cons of a publicly-funded system open to all versus giving Canadians a choice to seek out private health care -- something which could potentially weaken the public system.
But while 76 per cent of Canadians think people in this country should be able to buy private health insurance to cover treatments outside the current public system, 54 per cent oppose allowing doctors to work in the private sector.
This is not the case in Quebec, however, where 56 per cent support allowing doctors to work outside the public system. Generally speaking, the Ipsos poll shows that Quebecers are the most ambivalent about publicly-funded health care. For instance, Quebec scored the highest on support for a fully private system both with and without the option of a mixed model.
But overall, the survey suggests that while Canadians want a public option, they also believe in being given a choice. At the same time, they appear wary of the consequences of changing the way health care is delivered in this country, wanting the option of seeking private treatments but uncomfortable with Canadian doctors transitioning from the public to the private sector. Will any provincial government try to square this circle?
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls, and electoral projections.