NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Waiting For Health Care In Canada

March 5, 1999

Cancer patients and victims of other diseases in Canada are crossing the border into the U.S. for treatment, so clogged is that country's socialized medical pipeline. Last month the Ontario government announced it was entering into a contract with private U.S. health-care providers to deliver essential cancer treatments to Canadians.

Canadians have been purchasing health-care services in the U.S. for at least 15 years.

  • A 1993 study found that Canadian cancer patients were waiting an average of three times longer than patients in the U.S. for treatment -- one third longer than their doctors thought was clinically reasonable.
  • Even that wait was 33 percent to 50 percent longer than U.S. doctors thought was reasonable.
  • The weighted average wait for surgery in Canada is 6.8 weeks -- but that doesn't include the requirement to first see a specialist, which involves a further 5.1 weeks' wait.
  • For patients needing diagnostic assessment through sophisticated scanning devices, the current wait varies from 3.7 weeks to 11.1 weeks.

The most recent Canadian federal budget adds billions more to health-care spending to alleviate the delays.

But a six-year Fraser Institute study shows that increases in government spending have not been very successful in changing hospital waiting times. In fact, the prediction is that billions in new spending will only reduce the current 6.8 week wait for surgery by a maximum of three days.

When asked what he would do if he discovered he had cancer, one highly-respected researcher and doctor -- who firmly supports socialized medicine -- replied that he would "go to Buffalo or someplace else in the U.S. to get prompt treatment."

Source: Michael Walker (Fraser Institute), "Canadians With Medical Needs Follow Their Doctors South," Wall Street Journal, March 5, 1999.


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