Is Public or Private Healthcare better for Reducing Wait Times to See a Doctor?

It may come as a surprise to some, but having public healthcare is not always the best option when it comes to reducing wait times for seeing physicians. How is that possible? And what are some of the reasons for this? Let’s examine two countries which adopt different healthcare funding systems and compare the results.

Private Healthcare

The United States is the largest economy in the world, and its healthcare system is one of the costliest. The US adopts a private healthcare model, which means that the federal government does not directly cover the cost of health care for all the citizens of the country. The costs are covered privately (and sometimes publicly) through a variety of payment models that include private insurance, some state funding and some federal funding. Overall, the costs are mostly covered via private means such as employer’s insurance premiums. In this model average wait time was 18.5 days according to this article.

Public Healthcare in Canada

In contrast, the Canadian healthcare system is publicly funded, and that means that the entire of the costs of healthcare in Canada are covered by the Federal and provincial governments. So what effect does that have on the average wait times for seeing a family doctor? Or even a specialist? According to this the CBC the average Canadian waits longer to see a doctor than most Americans. Not just that, patients in Canada have longer wait times than many of those in other countries internationally. In fact, less than half of Canadians report being able to see a doctor on the next day, or even within two days.

Resulting Trends

The effects of this have been a recent trend that is increasing, especially in countries with a public healthcare system such as Canada. That trend is the increasing use and adaptation of walk-in clinics. These clinics do not follow the traditional model of family physicians. They do not have appointments and do not have a rigid list of patients that follow-up with the doctor every set amount of time. These clinics are the equivalent of the millennial generation, which wants everything to be fast and convenient. And that is exactly what these medical walkin clinics deliver, no-appointment, quick and easy access to a doctor. At a recent visit to, doctor wait times as low as a few hours. And, the clinics are usually open on non-traditional hours and on weekends, which makes them even more convenient to the millennial generation.

It is not possible to say that public healthcare leads to longer wait times. However, it seems that sticking to a rigid system of public funding causes an increased load on the health care system, which in turn may be the cause of longer wait times.