The beginning of coverage
It was not until 1946 that the first Canadian province introduced near universal health coverage. Saskatchewan had long suffered a shortage of doctors, leading to the creation of municipal doctor programs in the early twentieth century in which a town would subsidize a doctor to practice there. Soon after, groups of communities joined to open union hospitals under a similar model. There had thus been a long history of government involvement in Saskatchewan health care, and a significant section of it was already controlled and paid for by the government. In 1946, Tommy Douglas' Co-operative Commonwealth Federation government in Saskatchewan passed the Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act, which guaranteed free hospital care for much of the population. Douglas had hoped to provide universal health care, but the province did not have the money.
In 1950, Alberta created a program similar to Saskatchewan's. Alberta, however, created Medical Services (Alberta) Incorporated (MS(A)I) in 1948 to provide prepaid health services. This scheme eventually provided medical coverage to over 90% of the population.<10>
In 1957, the federal government passed the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act to fund 50% of the cost of such programs for any provincial government that adopted them. The HIDS Act outlined five conditions: public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility. These remain the pillars of the Canada Health Act.
By 1961, all ten provinces had agreed to start HIDS Act programs. In Saskatchewan, the act meant that half of their current program would now be paid for by the federal government. Premier Woodrow Lloyd decided to use this freed money to extend the health coverage to also include physicians. Despite the sharp disagreement of the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, Lloyd introduced the law in 1962 after defeating the Saskatchewan Doctors' Strike in...