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Grade 9-12

The Price We Pay for Health: US and Canada

Time: 175 mins,
Updated: August 15 2023,


Students will be able to:

  • Identify the positive aspects of each system.
  • Look at the trade-offs associated with those positive aspects.

In this economics lesson, students will review the health systems of United States and Canada.


Is healthcare for all, the cure-all?

Supporting Questions

  1. What are the similarities and differences between U.S. and Canadian healthcare systems?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the U.S. and Canadian healthcare systems?


Prior Knowledge

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the healthcare systems of the United States and Canada. Students will need to know what healthcare systems tend to look like, and how people decide it should be implemented. Students should also have an idea of how cost-benefit analysis works because of its importance in the healthcare decision making process.

Staging the Compelling Question

To stage the compelling question, “Is Healthcare for all, the Cure-all?” students watch the nine minute video, The Structure & Cost of US Health Care: Crash Course to begin the discussion on healthcare. Some students may have knowledge of the US healthcare system based on their own personal experiences.

Supporting Question 1: What are the similarities and differences between U.S. and Canadian Healthcare Systems?

The formative performance task asks students to complete a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the U.S. healthcare system with the Canadian healthcare system. The featured sources for this question give students a foundational understanding of the healthcare systems of both countries. The first source, US vs. Canadian Healthcare: What are the Differences, delineates the major differences between the two systems covered in the supporting question. A video from CNBC, How Canada’s Universal Health-Care System Works, looks at the healthcare system Canada uses while comparing it to the system in the United States.

Supporting Question 2: What are the advantages and disadvantages of the U.S and Canadian healthcare systems?

The second supporting question asks students to analyze the sources that describe the advantages and disadvantages of the US and Canadian healthcare systems and then create a T-chart listing the advantages and disadvantages of each. In addition to the previous featured sources, the sources for this task allow students to go further and examine data and assess the healthcare systems of the US and Canada. Each source provides valuable information that will aid students in the completion of their T-chart. One article, Free Universal Healthcare for All Americans, provides useful data that argues both for and against the system. An article from the Atlantic gives useful charts that can be used to how the healthcare systems compare in ranking. This article, What if America Had Canada’s Healthcare System, provides some valuable graphs on the topic. Another comparison comes from the Commonwealth Fund’s data charts that shows How the U.S. healthcare system compares internationally which will allow students to compare the U.S. system to other developed countries. The final sources discusses some of the facts about Canada’s single-payer health system. Understanding the system is vital to determining the advantages and disadvantages of the system.


Students should be expected to demonstrate the breadth of their understanding and their abilities to use evidence from multiple sources to support their claims. In this task, students will construct a claim and counterclaim that addresses the compelling question using specific and relevant evidence from the provided sources.

Students’ arguments will likely vary, but could include any of the following:

  • Healthcare for all is more beneficial because it allows for more access to doctors and facilities, and cuts costs to the patient allowing for the opportunity for better quality of life.
  • Healthcare for all outweighs the benefits because the design of the system is flawed, leading to increased wait times for patients, costly visits, and decreased access for all.


Activity 1

Students have the opportunity to Take Informed Action by researching current political candidates’ views on healthcare. Students can identify views on universal healthcare of political candidates for President and Congress and evaluate their opinions based on the data research in the summative task.

Activity 2

Students have the option to write a letter to a political candidate to suggest ways to modify or improve the current US healthcare system. This letter will use the information gathered during the formative work, along with what they have found while researching the current political candidates.