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Brief analytical summaries or syntheses #12

National health expenditure trends in Canada, 1975 to 2010


Healthcare spending in Canada is expected to reach $191.6 billion this year, an estimated increase of $9.5 billion, or 5.2%, over 2009 spending, according to figures recently published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). This represents an increase of $216 per Canadian, bringing total health expenditure per capita to an estimated $5,614 this year. After adjusting for inflation and population growth, spending on health care is expected to grow by 1.4% in 2010, the lowest annual growth in 13 years.


Both the public and private sectors finance Canada’s health system. Public sector funding includes payments by governments at the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal levels and by workers’ compensation boards and other social security schemes. Private sector funding consists primarily of health expenditures by households and private insurance firms. The CIHI tracks healthcare spending by each source of finance in the National Health Expenditure Database (NHEX). This database contains a historical series of macro-level health expenditure statistics by province and territory. CIHI assumed responsibility from Health Canada for the national health accounts, including NHEX, in 1995. This report is CIHI’s 14th annual health publication on expenditure trends and provides detailed, updated information on health expenditure in Canada.

Analysis and results

Total health expenditure by source of financing

  • In 2008, at the national level, hospitals and physicians were mainly financed by the public sector, while drugs and other professionals were primarily financed by the private sector.
  • Since 1997, the public-sector share of total health expenditure has remained relatively stable at around 70%. In 2008, the public sector spent $121.1 billion on health care, accounting for 70.5% of total health expenditure. It is forecast to be $128.6 billion in 2009 and $135.1 billion in 2010, accounting for 70.6% and 70.5% of total health spending, respectively.

Total health expenditure by use of funds 

  • In 2010, hospitals, which make up the largest component of healthcare spending, are forecast to have grown by 6.2% from 2009 to reach $55.3 billion, reflecting 28.9% of total health expenditure. This is the first year hospital expenditures are expected to grow faster than overall spending on health care since 2004.
  • In 2010, spending on drugs, which account for the second-largest category, grew by 4.8% from 2009 to reach $31.1 billion, amounting to 16.3% of total healthcare spending.

  • During the same period, spending on physicians increased by 6.9%, reaching  $26.3 billion, which represents 13.7% of total healthcare spending.

Health expenditure in the provinces and territories

  • Total health expenditure per capita varies among the provinces. In 2010, Alberta and Manitoba are forecast to spend more per person on health care than any other province, at $6,266 and $6,249, respectively. Quebec and British Columbia are forecast to have the lowest health expenditure per capita, at $5,096 and  $5,355, respectively.
  • In 2010, total health expenditure as a percentage of provincial GDP ranged from 8.2% in Alberta to 17.4% in Prince Edward Island. For the territories, the health expenditure–to–territorial GDP ratio was 24.2% for Nunavut, 13.8% for the Yukon and 7.7% for the Northwest Territories.
  • Similar to previous years, healthcare spending by provincial and territorial governments was highest for infants and seniors. In 2008, the latest available year for data broken down by age group, Canadians younger than age 1 cost an estimated $8,803 per person. The per person average spending on health was $1,260 for youths age 1 to 14, and $2,286 per capita for those age 15 to 64. Compared to other age groups, per person spending for seniors increased prominently: $5,828 for those aged 65 to 69, $8,078 for those 70 to 74, $10,898 for those 75 to 79 and $18,160 for those 80 and older.
  • During 2010, provincial and territorial government health expenditures are forecast to reach $125.0 billion, which accounts for 65.3% of total health expenditures in Canada and 94.3% of total health expenditures by all levels of government (the other two are federal government direct spending at 5.0% and municipal government spending at 0.7%).

International Comparisons

Among 26 countries that had comparable accounting systems in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2008, the latest year for which data is available, spending per person on health care remained highest in the United States (US$7,538). Canada was in the top fifth of countries in terms of per person spending on health, spending US$4,079, which was similar to several other OECD countries, including the Netherlands (US$4,063), Austria (US$3,970), Germany (US$3,737) and France (US$3,696). The lowest per capita expenditures were seen in Turkey (US$767) and Mexico (US$852). 


This report on trends does not draw any conclusions.

Implications and recommendations

The report on trends does not make any recommendations.


National health expenditure trends, 1975 to 2010 Fichier PDF.

Gouvernement du Québec
© Gouvernement du Québec, 2018