Two-tier health care is a form of national health care system. It is a system in which a guaranteed public health care system exists, but where a private system operates in parallel competition. The private system provides the opportunity for patients to have more choice in choosing their doctors and benefit from generally shorter waiting times, but is known for being quite costly and reserved only for those who can afford it. Doctors in the private sector may also benefit financially as they can set their own prices. Some advanced countries in the world have two-tier primary health care to varying degrees. In Canada, the Healthcare Act prohibits private for-profit health care practices.
The proponents of two-tier system argue that it would introduce more flexibility into the system, reducing wait lists and that competition from the private sector would make the public one more efficient. However, in the case of Quebec this has shown not to be true. Furthermore opponents argue that a two-tier system would tend to draw many of the best doctors out of the public system, reducing the overall quality of care. Some, e.g. Richard Gwyn at the Toronto Star, also believe that a two tier approach with private care would be more expensive than single tier health care. The Canada Health Act is also committed not only to access to health care to all, but access to the best health care available for all. Many consider access to the best possible care an important right of all citizens. Competition from the private sector would also almost certainly drive up the wages of doctors and other medical professionals in the entire system. Those who support a wholly public system also say that there is some concern that if Canada would allow a parallel private system within the country, it would be opening itself up to trade sanctions under some of its trading agreements.
The majority of Canadian people are largely opposed to the notion of two-tier health care, and no major political parties currently support the notion. In the 2000 federal election, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party accused the Canadian Alliance of secretly supporting it, leading to a famous incident when in the leaders debate Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day began waving a hand written "No 2-Tier Healthcare" sign. Some argue that Canada already does have a two-tier health care system as the wealthy can go to the United States for treatment, and quite a few Canadians do each year. Some provinces have increasingly allowed the private sector to provide medical services for a fee. Quebec, due a court ruling against the public system, has especially allowed the for-profit private sector to provide enhanced medical services to the public for a fee.