Our Neighbors to the North Receive More Physician Services, Pay Less Per Service

Study of U.S./Canadian differences in use and costs of physician services

From 1993 to 1995, researchers from the Urban Institute analyzed physician services provided to the elderly in the United States and Canada to determine whether cost or quantity controls (or some mixture of the two) have enabled Canada to hold the line on health care expenditures.

Based in Washington, the Urban Institute is a nonpartisan social policy and research organization.

Key Findings

  • Researchers found that:

    • Canadians receive a higher volume of services than US elderly, but the price per service is lower, resulting in lower overall expenditures for physician services in Canada.
    • Elderly Canadians receive fewer surgical procedures than their US counterparts and fewer procedures for which there is low clinical consensus on need.
    • Canadian elderly receive more than four times as many home and nursing home visits as US elderly.
    • The United States does not appear to spend more than Canada on physician services for the elderly in the last six months of their lives.
    • The number of Canadians seeking health care services in the United States to avoid Canadian queues is insignificant.