Saskatchewan is a vast prairie province in the middle of Canada. It’s home to hockey great Gordie Howe and the world’s first curling museum. But Canadians know it for another reason: it’s the birthplace of the country’s single-payer health-care system.

In 1947, Saskatchewan began doing something very different from the rest of the country: it decided to pay the hospital bills for all residents. The system was popular and effective — and other provinces quickly took notice. Neighboring Alberta started a hospital insurance plan in 1950, and by 1961 all ten Canadian provinces provided hospital care. In 1966, Canada passed a national law that grew hospital insurance to a more comprehensive insurance plan like the one that exists today.

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