@ChuckNorris: Great question, actually!
How it works is I get to go to the doctor, for free, all the time. Have a cough? Go to the doctor. Not sure if it is a new mole or cancer? Go to the doctor. Need an ultra sound? Go to the doctor. All of these “essentials” are free. We also have free walk-in clinics and it is free to go to an urgent care centre or hospital. What we have to pay for are medicines and non-essential surgery/procedures. So if I break my leg, it is free to have it x-rayed, put in a cast and to visit the doctor countless times because it is itchy. It costs money to get painkillers and crutches.
There is currently a doctor shortage in a lot of Ontario cities, simply because doctors are paid by the goverment based on visits, what they do/treat, etc. Rumor has it that some doctors aren’t paid as well as they can be in other areas, and that funding isn’t always in place. Also, I live in a rural area (well, an hour from Toronto, but that is rural!). There are only about 10 doctors in this town, and they are all full. What happens is I have requested a doctor, but there is a list of a million other people who ALSO need a doctor in my city. It’s first come first serve, so as someone dies or moves or changes doctors on the list, you are called and offered a new doctor. The wait list here is incredibly bad, and worse than most places.
Back to private care– I’m a teacher, so I have lots of private medical coverage. Based on my policy I get most medications covered. What that means, is when I have that broken leg, I get free pain killers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much else. So it won’t provide me with a doctor (I can’t pay a doctor myself, either). If, like my grandfather, I need back surgery, I am placed on a wait list in order of need. My grandpa was on the waitlist for a year before he paid to have it done in the states. This is never covered, as it is considered “non-essential”, since you COULD have it done in Canada for free.
So as a result, I love my health care as I’ve never debated about seeing a doctor. I do get frustrated though, because there are longer wait times and currently are doctor shortages. Nothing will change that until the government pumps more money into our health care system. I have to say, though, it’s really nice to be able to go to a walk-in because I have a cough or go get a yeast infection test at the local walk-in because I’m not sure. None of these things cost me a dime, but it is great to know sooner rather than later.