Comparing France and Canada’s healthcare system: which is better?

Both France and Canada’s healthcare systems have a good reputation.
France ranked number 1 on 2000’s World Health Organization’s rankings, and since, it has kept a lot of qualities. France has the least deaths avoidable with healthcare in the world, for example.
Canada’s healthcare system, on the other hand, is always compared to the United States’ and held in high regard. As such, there aren’t as many comparisons between Canada and other countries. Thus, it’s worth comparing the two to see how they fare against each other.

How do these systems work?

One of the founding principles of the Canadian health care system is that “citizens will receive all medically necessary and hospital physician services”. As such, there is a nationwide health program that covers all hospital and physician needs across the country’s 10 provinces.
However, for other services, such as dental care or drug coverage, provinces are free to decide. This explains why 2/3 Canadians take out a complementary health care insurance, and the average Canadian household spends 4000 $ a year on private insurance premiums.

By contrast, in France, everyone is automatically insured. Social contributions are paid with taxes, and with that, the Government will automatically reimburse 70% of all medical fees (though certain operations are paid back in full). Granted, most French people also subscribe to a semi-private “Mutuelle” that will reimburse the rest of the fees. Though, the mutuelles cost less than 50 $ a month per person.

How much does it cost?

If we just take private insurance into account, a French household will pay much less than a Canadian one, but social contributions are almost exclusively the way the French pay for their healthcare.

However, because social contributions are mixed with taxes and include a lot more services than healthcare, comparing exactly how much a household spends can be difficult. However, we can compare spending on a national level:

  • Canada spends 4 445 $ per capita and 4% of its GDP on healthcare,
  • France spends 3 974 $ per capita and 8% of its GDP on healthcare

Here, it appears to even out.

How effective is it?

As mentioned earlier, France has the least deaths avoidable with healthcare in the world. Furthermore, there’ no waiting time, and even though life expectancy is similar to what you find in the UK or Germany, life expectancy at 65 is the second-highest in the world. As such, most early deaths are the result of tobacco or alcohol.

Canada also has quite a few successes to its name, particularly so when it comes to primary care. Indeed, people don’t have to be hospitalized as much for chronic diseases such as asthma or diabetes.
Canada falls short, however, when it comes to waiting times. Whether it’s for emergency care or simply for a visit to the doctor, wait times tend to be much higher in Canada. Other statistics also seem to inch towards France: France has less lab, medical and medication errors, less disease burden, and even has lower mortality rates.


Overall, it looks like France’s healthcare system offers more consistent advantage’s than Canada’s. While the costs appear to be somewhat similar, and Canada does better in primary care, France’s excellent results across the board make it an excellent country to get sick in.