NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Canadians can't Spend Own Money to Protect Their Own Health

April 29, 2004

More and more Canadians have been seeking to avoid waiting lists in the government-run system by purchasing care at private clinics. However, in late 2003, the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Ontario implemented new legislation effectively forbidding citizens from using their own incomes to purchase health services.

Because Canadians do not bear the costs of their medical care, demand for services has soared, forcing the country's universal health care system to ration services. In most cases, Canadians needing surgery or consultation with specialists are queued in waiting lists that can last for months:

  • In 2003, the wait between a general practitioner's referral to the receipt of specialized treatment was substantial: general surgery (10.3 weeks), plastic surgery (28.6 weeks) and orthopedic surgery (32.2 weeks).
  • Similarly, the median wait times for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) was 12.7 weeks, while for a CT (computed tomography) scan the median wait was 5.5 weeks.

Since 1993, wait times in Canada have risen by 90 percent.

Aside from depriving Canadians of a right to spend money to protect their own health, the new law creates an arbitrary legislated separation within the population, say observers. For example, a privileged few are able to speed up their access to health care -- including members of the Canadian military, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and prisoners.

Of all the countries with universal access health care systems in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only Canada outlaws private access to private health services for individuals willing to bear the cost.

Source: Nadeem Esmail, "Oh To Be A Prisoner," Fraser Forum, The Fraser Institute, January 2004.


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