I'll provide a more detailed answer later (not good at smartphone typing!) but the primary feature is that it is single-payer: everyone pays into the federal government, which then subsidizes the provinces (analogous to states in the US), which administer payments to doctors and hospitals, both of which are private.
Because the gov't can use its leverage as the only buyer, costs are controlled and unnecessary tests and medications are eliminated. So Americans pay almost twice as much per person, yet have a lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality, among other things.
The UK is totally public (single payer, hospitals are govt owned & doctors are govt employees), while France has private insurance, doctors and hospitals that are paid according to contracts negotiated by the national government and financed through a payroll tax. This system performs the best, with the exception of Japan (which is unique for a number of reasons).
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