Universal health care system not as altruistic as some Canadians might have hoped
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/12/2013 -- Canada and its publicly funded healthcare system is meant to provide individuals with equal access to medical services, rich and poor alike. Many Canadians see universal health coverage as a source of national pride about how the country handles itself and treats its neighbors. However, a new study reveals suggestions that the privileged individuals across the country do get special attention, while the less fortunate can sometimes face discrimination.
The new findings are based off a random sample of nearly 400 general practitioners and family physicians within the Toronto area. The study was conducted by phone, wherein researchers asked specific questions posing as either a bank employee or a welfare recipient. In some cases the researchers stated that they had chronic health conditions, while in other cases they indicated proper health.
The researchers followed a standardized script, and they asked doctors in regards to reception of new patients and if the posing researcher could book an appointment. Most of the calls were answered by support staff and not the physicians themselves. The results revealed that a considerable number of offices seemed to be in favor of the upper crust, rather than the downtrodden or not as well off.
“We found that if you were of apparently high socioeconomic status, you had a 23 per cent chance of getting an appointment, but if you were of apparently low socioeconomic status that dropped to 14 per cent,” said the senior author of the study, Dr. Stephen Hwang, a physician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. All told, the privileged are allowed a 58% higher likelihood of seeing a doctors than a disadvantaged individual.
There was a similar trend noted as evident when looking at whether callers were offered an appointment or screening. Those with high status were given a 37% higher optional capability. Only 24% of the lower-status individual calls were given such an opportunity.
Even in a system where doctors receive the same payment for every patient, regardless of the patient’s income or occupation, we see evidence of discrimination against people of low socioeconomic status,” said Hwang.
“So you can’t argue that physicians are selecting in favor of high-status patients because they are going to make more money,” he added.
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