Waiting for Care in Canada Costs $1,200 per Patient

Every legal resident of Canada is entitled to “free” taxpayer-funded medical and hospital care. They just have to wait a long time to get it. And that waiting time has a price.


Source: The Fraser Institute.

According to Nadeem Esmail of the Fraser Institute:

The estimated cost of waiting for care in Canada for patients who were in the queue in 2013 was $1.1 billion — an average of about $1,202 for each of the estimated 928,120 Canadians waiting for treatment in 2013. The estimate is conservative; it assumes that only those hours during the average work week should be counted as lost and places no intrinsic value on the time individuals spend waiting in a reduced capacity outside of the work week. Valuing all hours of the week, including evenings and weekends but excluding eight hours of sleep per night, would increase the estimated cost of waiting to slightly more than $3.4 billion, or about $3,681 per person. This estimate only counts costs that are borne by the individual waiting for treatment. The costs of care provided by family members (the time spent caring for the individual waiting for treatment) and their lost productivity due to difficulty or mental anguish are not valued in this estimate. Moreover, non-monetary medical costs, such as increased risk of mortality or adverse events that result directly from long delays for treatment, are not included in this estimate.

Comments (17)

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  1. Perry says:

    I don’t think Americans would stand for waiting like the Canadians, but maybe they will have to now.

  2. Paul T says:

    The beauty of socialism exemplified. Socialism is one of the best systems, in theory. It sounds wonderful and promises solutions to everyone. Yet, what it states if far different from what is applicable. Things such as these implicit costs are not mentioned when describing this magnificent system.

  3. Fred S says:

    There is no free lunch in life and everything has a cost. This is what people seem to forget when they allude to the socialistic sentiment. The difference between capitalism and socialism is that in capitalism the costs are upfront, while in socialism the costs are hidden.

  4. Bill B. says:

    Oh Canada. They are so polite that they will wait the equivalency of $1200 for health care.

    • Jay says:

      That is why universal health care is unattainable in America. Imagine telling New Yorkers that they have to wait long enough to cost them $1200 for a doctors visit.

  5. Thomas says:

    People who think that the Canadian health care system is so good never mention the costs. I am sure it would be an outrage if our waiting costs were up to $1200 in the states.

  6. George Orwell says:

    Yet ask the vast majority of Canadians if they would trade their healthcare system for the one we had before ACA, and they would do a spit-take. Why is that?

    Could it be because while they may have to wait for certain non-essential services a bit longer, they still get great care and do not go bankrupt getting it. Is it because their costs, even with this so-called wait time cost, are still lower than ours? Is it because they know they will get care, maintenance and preventive care without some insurance executive deciding that they don’t get it because it would just cost the insurance company too much?

    You hate national healthcare so much, but what do you offer in its stead: either go broke or die early.

    • John R. Graham says:

      No, because most people are healthy and therefore fall for politicians’ promises at the polling booth.

      Medical bankruptcy in Canada is the same or maybe higher than in the U.S. (http://tinyurl.com/nheeho).

      “Maintenance and preventive care”? In 2007, 15 percent of Canadians did not have a primary-care doctor (http://tinyurl.com/otwancq).

  7. Perry says:

    “Is it because they know they will get care, maintenance and preventive care without some insurance executive deciding that they don’t get it because it would just cost the insurance company too much?”
    Remove insurance company, insert Government.

  8. BHS says:

    And for some of those patients, these waits can literally cost an arm and a leg.

  9. Sam says:

    In 3 of the 10 provinces residents do pay a premium. While significantly less (138.50/mo family of 3+ in BC) our own government also legislates a level of free care under EMTALA. In addition, Canada Health provides no prescription coverage, leaving the average Canadian paying about $3,300/yr for health care.

    While waiting and rationing are dirty words when it comes health care, try managing a finite pool of money for a group of covered individuals when there is a claims run, even with stop-loss. It gives you a whole new perspective. I say this and I have a chronic medical condition costing $100,000+ in claims four years running. I also still work FT and have health insurance. Interestingly enough, I have a sibling in Canada with the same medical condition. Hands down I prefer my treatment in the US given my access to off label treatments, that are helping, but my sibling will never receive in Canada, even if they could write the check or cheque.

    All of this is said to say our conversations regarding health care are too polarized. We may need to inject some fiscal reality rather than kicking SGR down the road for another decade. What are our behind the door costs under EMTALA for making the uninsured wait in the US?

    • John R. Graham says:

      Thank you. The premiums in the provincial health plans are so low and small as a share of insured claims (most of which come from the provincial governments’ general funds) that I suspect the administrative costs of collecting premiums is not worth the hassle. (For employees, the employer often pays the premium.)

      In Ontario, there was no premium for the Ontario Health Plan, and the Liberal Party ran on a “no new taxes” pledge. When they won, they imposed a premium for health coverage, arguing that the premium did not break the pledge.

      As it is a mandatory system, there is little if any economic difference between taxes and premium. The move was an Obama-level obfuscation.