Canada’s Long Wait Times for Healthcare


How long do you want to wait to see the doctor? That’s the real question to ask when you consider single-payer healthcare like Canada.

Single Payer Healthcare

It’s no secret that Democrats want to bring you single-payer healthcare to replace the current ObamaCare disaster. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made it the focus of his campaign. He likes to call it “Medicare For All” and has introduced a bill in the Senate by the same name.

I’ve been opposed to this idea for quite some time since I researched my book, The ObamaCare Reality, which was published in 2015. There is plenty of historical evidence that every country where this system has been tried has resulted in long waiting times for healthcare. This includes Great Britain, Sweden, and our neighbor to the north, Canada.

Fraser Institute Report

The Fraser Institute is a leading public policy think tank in Canada. Their most recent report entitled, Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, documents the 2017 status of Canadian waiting times.

According to The Wall Street Journal editorial board, the Fraser Institute surveyed physicians in 12 specialties across 10 provinces and found, “a median waiting time of 21.2 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment.” This is actually worse than 2016 when wait times were 20 weeks. So the problem is getting worse. The Fraser Institute has been doing this survey since 1993 and the wait times now are 128% longer than their first survey.

The wait to see a specialist for a consultation is now 177% longer than in 1993, while the wait from consultation to treatment is 95% longer than in 1993. The shortest waits are in radiology and oncology. The longest waits are for orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, and ophthalmology.

Stop and think about that. You go to your primary care physician – a general practitioner (not an internist) and you’re referred to a specialist. You must wait over five months before you get to see that specialist!

Of course there are negative consequences of such long waits. Author Bacchus Barua says the negative consequences can include “increased pain, suffering, and mental anguish” and sometimes “poorer outcomes – transforming potentially reversible illnesses or injuries into chronic, irreversible conditions, or even permanent disabilities. In many instances, patients may also have to forgo wages while they await treatment.”

Waiting times for diagnostic testing are also long. The report says, “This year, Canadians could expect to wait 4.1 weeks for a computed tomography (CT) scan, 10.8 weeks for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and 3.9 weeks for an ultrasound.”

Apparently it does matter where you live. The shortest wait times are in the province of Ontario and the longest are in Manitoba. While wait times decreased slightly in Ontario, Newfoundland, and Labrador, they increased nationwide on average due to appalling delays in provinces like New Brunswick where the median wait from general practitioner to treatment is 41.7 weeks!

The Canadian government is aware of these long waiting times and has even given in to paying private physicians to provide healthcare outside the system to alleviate the extreme delays. The same has happened in Great Britain and Sweden due to the unacceptably long waits. Yet this Fraser report shows the situation is getting worse.

The WSJ says the basic law of economics that scarce resources must be rationed by price or by time applies here. The impact on Canadians is clear from the report: “Ottawa’s decision to mandate a single-payer system in 1984 has consigned ailing Canadians to queues. Some 1,041,000 patients are in line waiting for treatment, a 6.9% increase in 2017.”

Canadians have responded by increasingly traveling to get their care in other countries. Nearly 63,500 Canadians went abroad last year for their care. We must make sure that never is necessary for Americans. We must stop single-payer healthcare in the U.S. before it ever happens.

(For more on single-payer systems, see my Archives.)

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