NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

In Canada, Increased Spending Means Increased Waiting

January 5, 2004

On an age-adjusted basis, Canada -- not the United States -- spends more health care than any other nation. Yet long waiting lists have become the defining characteristic of the Canadian health care system.

International surveys show that Canadians wait longer than patients almost anywhere else in the developed world:

  • Waiting times from a specialist consultation to treatment averages 9.5 weeks.
  • Despite increases in government health spending, waiting times have grown 70 percent since 1993.
  • In 1993, government health expenditures were $1,836 per person; by 2002 spending had increased 21 percent to $2,223 per person.
  • A study using data through 2001-02 found an extra $100 of public per capital health expenditure for anything other than physicians or drugs was actually correlated with a one-week increase in total waiting time.
  • By contrast, in other countries, an extra $100 of per capita health expenditure was associated with a 6.6 day reduction in mean waiting times, or a 6.1 day reduction in median waiting times.

The only way to reduce long waiting times is real health care reform, says health policy expert Nadeem Esmail. The recommended reforms include allowing private entities to provide publicly funded health services, introducing competition in health insurance and its provision and providing appropriate incentives for better delivery of health services and their use.

Source: Nadeem Esmail, "Spending and Waiting: Canada's Dysfunctional Relationship," Fraser Forum, December 2003, Fraser Institute.

 

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