U.S. vs. Canadian Healthcare: Poll Compares Citizens’ Experience as Patients

Canada Leads on Affordability and Access While the U.S. Is Ahead on Availability

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Washington, DC – Americans are less likely than are Canadians to describe their healthcare services as being affordable, according to a new Ipsos poll. Only half of U.S. adults (49%) agree that they currently have access to all of the healthcare services they need without it costing them more than they can afford. In contrast, two thirds of Canadian adults (65%) feel this way.

  • In the United States, there is a glaring income gap when it comes to having access to affordable healthcare: Only 37% of those with a household income of less than $50,000 say they have access to and can afford all the healthcare services they need, compared with 60% of those who have a higher income level.
  • In Canada, the income gap is much narrower: 61% of those with a household income of less than $55,000 U.S. report having access to and being able to afford all the healthcare services they need vs. 70% among those who are more affluent.
  • Interestingly, in both countries, those with a chronic condition are more likely than those without to say that they have access to affordable healthcare services (59% vs. 50%, respectively, in the U.S. and 69% vs. 63%, respectively, in Canada).

Americans are also somewhat less likely than Canadians to say that they are treated with respect and dignity by healthcare providers. In the U.S., 68% say so of their encounters with healthcare providers, compared to 75% in Canada.

However, the survey findings indicate that the higher costs that many Americans face may also come with more timely availability to services. Americans tend to be more content with their ability to get an appointment and to not suffer long wait times than are Canadians. Americans are more likely than Canadians to agree that:

  • They do not have to wait a long time for an appointment when they are referred to a specialist (47% of Americans vs. 26% of Canadians);
  • They are not kept waiting when they arrive for scheduled healthcare appointments (48% vs. 38%); and
  • They are able to get in to see their family physician quickly when they need to (59% vs. 52%)

At the same time, Americans and Canadians are equally likely to feel that they can easily access health services on evenings and weekends if needed (44% of U.S. adults say this describes the healthcare services in their community vs. 43% of Canadians).

These are some of the findings of two Ipsos polls conducted in June and July. For the US survey, conducted July 9-14, 2009, a national sample of 1,004 adults aged 18 and older from Ipsos' U.S. online panel were interviewed online. For the survey of Canadians, conducted June 5-7, 2009, a national sample of 1,010 adults aged 18 and older from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed online. In both cases, weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to national Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of 1,000 adults and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire adult population of the United States or Canada had been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

Yet, except for affordability and access, adults in the U.S. and Canada share similar attitudes toward the healthcare services in their community, despite very different systems in the two countries. Majorities of respondents in both the U.S. (56%) and Canada (55%) similarly feel that the healthcare services in their community are patient-centered, meaning that the healthcare services in their community provide them with timely access to a full range of services that meet their needs and preferences and they are treated with dignity and respect.

Americans and Canadians also hold similar views when it comes to medical records and information. Similar proportions in both countries agree that:

  • They do not have to have the same medical tests repeated simply because they are seeing different medical professionals as they all have access to their test results (52% in the U.S. vs. 48% in Canada);
  • They do not have to be the one responsible for informing their family physician about other healthcare services they may have received, such as hospitalization (34% vs. 35%); and
  • They do not have to repeat their health history each time they encounter a different health provider (37% vs. 36%).

For more information on this news release, please contact:
Clifford Young
Senior Vice President
Ipsos Public Affairs

About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. Ipsos Public Affairs is the polling agency of record for The McClatchy Company, the third-largest newspaper company in the United States and the international polling agency of record for Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.

Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-basedmarket research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

In 2008, Ipsos generated global revenues of €979.3 million ($1.34 billion U.S.).

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U.S. vs. Canadian Healthcare: 
Poll Compares Citizens’ Experience as Patients


Clifford Young
President, US
Ipsos Public Affairs