Canadians Getting Care in the U.S.

Austin Frakt of the Incidental Economist recently reminded readers of a 2002 article in the journal Health Affairs that estimated the number of Canadians crossing the U.S. border for elective care. The study  examined data from the 18,000 Canadians who participated in the National Population Health Survey.  In the previous year, only 90 of those 18,000 Canadians had received care in the United States; only 20 of them had done so electively.

In Austin’s view, this is a trivial number. However, this survey was conducted in 1996-1997, when the population of Canada was about 28,846,761.  This implies that about 32,052 Canadians received elective care in the U.S. in 1996 if the sample results are representative.  More recently, the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute estimated 44,794 Canadians received nonemergency medical treatment outside Canada in 2010.  According to Fraser, 825,827 Canadians were waiting to see a specialist, for treatment or for surgical procedures in 2010. This implies the number of those coming to the US was equal to more than 5% of those waiting.

Comments (11)

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  1. Joe Barnett says:

    Cash paying patients, I presume.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    There were around 180,000 Canadians waiting for surgery in 1996 according to Fraser. If the number of Canadians waiting for other types of medical services was added, more than 600,000 Canadians were waiting for some type of service in 1996-1997. If the figure that 32,052 Canadians crossed the border for elective care is correct, that still translates to about 5% of those waiting for some type of service.

  3. Nancy says:

    Great post. This is the kind of information I only get at the JCG Health blog.

  4. Vicki says:

    Thanks, Devon. Great to get the “rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say.

  5. Ken says:

    Ditto all the other comments. This is a great post. And it foreshadows where we are headed with Obama Care.

  6. Linda Gorman says:

    Yes, studies show that everyone in Canada is happy with the health system.

    Never mind that the Canadians are moving to gray market provision of some services or that there are businesses that do nothing but arrange care outside the system for people who are ill-treated by it. See for an example.

  7. Virginia says:

    5% is a huge number. If you worked at any major company where 5% of your customers were actively seeking alternative products and services, you would not be in business very long! The fact that people are willing to pay much more for American health care services makes it an even more impressive statistic.

  8. Greg says:

    Great post. I wish you all would post more rebuttals of the stuff at Incidental Economist. They are very one-sided and I probably don’t have to tell you on which side they always are.

  9. Jeff says:

    I can’t imagine what point Austin is trying to make. There is a huge problem of access to care in Canada that has been verified again and again by independent studies and is even the basis for a decision by the Canadian Supreme Court.

    What difference does it make how many Canadians actually come to the United States for care? They would probably all come here if they could afford it.

  10. Clark says:

    Great post. Thanks for clearing the air on things like this.

  11. steve says:

    One word, Detroit.