Canadians wasted over $1 billion just waiting for health care

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Patients in Canada’s single-payer health care system spent $1.1 billion of their time waiting for health care in 2013, according to a study from a free-market Canadian think tank.

The Fraser Institute’s health care experts determined that the cost of waiting for care averaged $1,202 per person of the 928,120 Canadians who had to wait for treatment last year. The median wait time to see a health care provider in Canada is 9.6 weeks, up from 9.3 weeks in 2012. The queue for health care services in the single-payer nation has been lengthening since 2009.

With that amount of time, it’s not surprising that many of Canada’s better-off citizens have historically frequented private American health care systems for surgical procedures and and services as commonplace as MRIs, which are notoriously difficult to access up north, as opposed to waiting for months to move up in the Canadian queue.

The Fraser Institute found in January that 2013 saw almost 42,000 Canadians seek health care services in America as a result of the three-month waiting periods and lower quality care. (RELATED: Tens of thousands fled socialized Canadian medicine in 2013)

Canadians travel to the U.S. for health care due to “concerns about quality, seeking out more advanced healthcare facilities, higher tech medicine, or better outcomes.”

The estimates of the cost of waiting includes of work-week hours, not lost time on evenings and weekends, which brings the estimated cost of waiting up to $3.4 billion, an average of $3,681 per patient.

The study’s author Nadeem Esmail noted that additional damages pile up as well, causing the ultimate cost of the nation’s inefficient health care system to climb even higher.

“The costs of care provided by family members (in time spent caring for the individual waiting for treatment) and their lost productivity due to difficulty or mental anguish” are not included in the tally, Esmail wrote.

The study calculated wait times before having an advanced procedure after having an appointment with a specialist across twelve medical specialties, including orthopedic and cardiovascular surgery, neurosurgery and medical and radiation oncology.

The marked price for some medical treatments is lower in countries with socialized health care than in the U.S. In Canada’s case, the government fixes prices for health care services and ensures patients see artificially low rates.

In the U.S., only physician reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid participants are set by the federal government. The programs have been faced with worsening doctor shortages for years due to physicians’ inability to break even on their services, drastically limiting availability of care for the poor and elderly populations.

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