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Access to, and Utilization of, Health Care

National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health

Although the Canadian health care system provides widespread access to physician and hospital services, there remain a number of gaps in coverage that are felt most strongly by those surviving on low incomes. Consider the following information from a government document entitled “Toward a healthy future: Second report on the health of Canadians“.[1]

  • Only 25% of Canadians with low incomes have dental insurance and only 45% will visit a dentist in a given year.

  • Only 21% of Canadians with low incomes have insurance for eye exams and corrective lenses; 64% of Canadians with higher incomes have such insurance.

  • Low income is a barrier to accessing mental health services, particularly those provided by non-physicians.

  • The prescription drug costs of 1 in 3 Canadians are not covered by government plans or employee benefits.

  • Canadians with low incomes are more likely to report unmet health care needs, and are more likely to report that these needs are emotional rather than physical. This may reflect the difficulty they face in accessing mental health services.

  • Lower income Canadians are more likely to report seeing a physician in the previous year.


Can you think of reasons why Canadians with lower incomes may be more likely to utilize physician services?


Although physician visits are covered, financial barriers are not the only factor that prevents low income Canadians from accessing health care services.

Can you think of other barriers that low income Canadians might face in accessing health care?

For more information on barriers to health care, click here to go to the section on Screening and Disease Prevention


1. Federal, Provincial and Territorial Advisory Committee on Population Health. Toward a healthy future: Second report on the health of Canadians. 1999.

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