NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Many Canadians Seek Medical Care outside of Canada?

June 21, 2011

There are a growing number of companies providing Canadians with easier access to medically necessary treatments outside the country.  Of course, leaving Canada for medically necessary treatment is nothing new; Canadians have been doing so for many years, either in response to the unavailability of certain treatments, in response to concerns about quality, or in response to long wait times for medically necessary treatment, says Nadeem Esmail, the Fraser Institute's former Director of Health System Performance Studies and Manager of the Alberta Policy Research Center.

How many Canadians receive treatment outside Canada each year, though?  Esmail estimates based on the results of the Fraser Institute's Waiting Your Turn survey and the counts of procedures completed each year in Canada:

  • An estimated 44,794 Canadian in total received treatment outside Canada in 2010.
  • This is a notable increase from the 41,006 Canadians estimated to have received treatment outside Canada in 2009.
  • The national increase in the estimated number of patients treated outside Canada occurred at the same time as a national increase in the median wait time for medically necessary treatment -- specifically, the national median wait time for treatment after consultation with a specialist was 8.0 weeks in 2009 and 9.3 weeks in 2010.

This estimate likely underestimates the actual number of patients who received treatment outside the country in 2010, says Esmail.

Source: Nadeem Esmail, "Leaving Canada for Medical Care," Fraser Institute, March/April 2011.

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