Waiting for health care cost Canadians more than $1 billion in 2015

Long waits for surgery and medical treatment cost Canadians a combined $1.17 billion—or $1,304 per patient—in 2015, finds a new study released April 12, 2016, by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank. https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/private-cost-of-public-queues-for-medically-necessary-care-2016.pdf

The study, The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care, calculates the average personal cost of time lost during the work week in Canada last year for each of the estimated 894,449 patients waiting for treatments, which include orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery and urology, for example.

“In addition to the physical and psychological pain and suffering Canadians endure while waiting for medically necessary treatment, they often lose valuable time, either in lost income from not working, lower productivity, or less time with friends and family,” said Bacchus Barua, study co- author and senior economist in the Fraser Institute’s Centre for Health Policy Studies.

When calculations are extended to include hours outside the traditional work week— evenings and weekends—the estimated cost of waiting jumps from $1.17 billion to $3.53 billion, or about $3,951 per patient. The study draws upon data from the Fraser Institute’s Waiting Your Turn study, an annual survey of Canadian physicians who, in 2015, reported an average median wait time from specialist appointment to treatment of 9.8 weeks—almost three weeks longer than what physicians consider clinically reasonable.

“Unless policymakers respond to Canada’s long wait times with genuine reform, Canadian patients will continue to suffer undue loss of income and quality of life,” Barua said. As wait times and incomes vary by province, so does the cost of waiting for health care.

Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2015 faced the highest private cost of waiting per patient ($2,517), followed by New Brunswick ($2,029) and British Columbia ($1,713). Average value of time lost in 2015 for patient waiting for medically necessary care (by province):

British Columbia: $1,713

Alberta: $1,502

Saskatchewan: $768

Manitoba: $1,238

Ontario: $941

Quebec: $886

New Brunswick: $2,029

Nova Scotia: $1,462

Prince Edward Island: $1,379

Newfoundland and Labrador: $2,517

Canada’s government-run health care system – Medicare -- is a monopoly that prohibits private hospital and private physician care. Medicare is a subpar performer, ranking 10th among 11 advanced countries. Canadians deserve much better! Patients deserve timely access to quality care and choice of hospitals and physicians. Taxpayers deserve much more value for their tax dollars.

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