Executive Summary – The Canada Health Act: An Overview

(Disponible en français : Résumé – La Loi canadienne sur la santé : Un aperçu)

The Canada Health Act (CHA) sets out criteria and conditions that provincial and territorial health insurance plans have to meet in order to receive the full cash contribution that they are eligible for under the Canada Health Transfer.

The CHA requires that “medically necessary” or “medically required” hospital, physician, or surgical dental-services be insured by the provincial or territorial plan. As a result, some health services which many Canadians view as essential to maintaining good health, such as prescription drugs and many mental health services, are not required by the CHA to be insured by the provinces and territories.

Provinces and territories are free to insure other health care services in addition to the ones described in the CHA. This means that the basket of health services that are publicly-insured varies across the country.

Over the years, improvements to the CHA have been proposed by medical stakeholders, academics and parliamentarians.   

This paper describes the CHA, summarizes provincial and territorial compliance issues, and reviews parliamentary action related to the CHA.

Read the full text of the Background Paper: The Canada Health Act: An Overview

Author: Marlisa Tiedemann, Library of Parliament