Making Medicare:  The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914-2007 Back to Timeline Back to Timeline
History: 1948-1958 NATIONAL SYSTEM, NATIONAL FAILURE? : WAR, RECONSTRUCTION AND HEALTH SECURITY FOR CANADIANS, 1939–1948 PUBLIC OR PRIVATE? VOLUNTARY OR COMPULSORY? : HOSPITAL CARE FOR CANADIANS, 19481958 CONFLICT AND COMPROMISE: CREATING THE MEDICAL CARE AC, 1958–1968



Commercial Insurance Plans: The Limits to Private Coverage

Canadian insurance companies, like their American counterparts, entered the health insurance market in the 1940s and 1950s. As profit-generating corporations, they had experience in designing and selling insurance plans to both groups and individuals. Not surprisingly, they stressed the actuarial soundness of the plans that they offered and worked diligently to enrol the healthy. Most plans had age limits, and even Leslie Frost, the Ontario Premier, had two of his individual policies cancelled on his 60th birthday. A decorated war hero who had been gassed during the First World War, Frost was at a stage in his life when the odds were rising that he would need to use his insurance coverage. He was not alone. In addition, for many Canadians the existence of a medical problem meant that they would be ineligible for coverage. As one young University of Toronto master’s student in social work discovered, the rhetoric about the easy availability of private medical insurance as advertised in newspapers was a sham. When she invited salesmen from the various plans to meet with her at the home that she shared with fellow students, the salesmen were shocked to discover that she was a paraplegic in a wheelchair, and they promptly left after indicating that she would not be enrolled in their plans. As she ruefully noted, “The students were surprised and appalled. I was merely appalled” (Life Before Medicare, p. 66). 

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010