NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Cost of Waiting Times

April 2, 2014

How much does waiting for medical care in Canada cost? $1.1 billion in 2013, says Nadeem Esmail, director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute.

Waiting times -- the delay that Canadians have to suffer before they can receive necessary medical care due to rationing -- can be calculated in order to illustrate the burden of waiting for health care. In Canada, the average wait time per patient was 9.6 weeks.

Esmail also calculated the privately borne cost of waiting for treatment -- the value of the productive time lost while waiting in line.

  • For patients in the 2013 queue who were waiting for a procedure, that cost was $1.1 billion ($1,202 for each of the 928,120 Canadians waiting in line for treatment).
  • This estimate is conservative because it only counted hours during the average work week.
  • Were one to include evenings and weekends -- but not including eight hours of sleep per night -- the cost of waiting was $3.4 billion per person.
  • These are costs borne only by the individual and does not include associated family members' costs (such as time spent caring for the sick individual, or lost productivity due to mental anguish).
  • Non-monetary costs -- such as increased mortality risks -- are also not included.

Rationing of care in Canada produces these wait lines, which impose direct costs on the Canadians waiting to receive health services, as well as on their families.

Source: Nadeem Esmail, "The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care: 2014 Edition," Fraser Institute, March 24, 2014.


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