As Americans Await Obamacare, Canadians Wait Longer for Treatment

The Fraser Institute of Canada reports that the median wait-time for a Canadian who needs surgery or other therapies rose to 19.0 weeks in 2011, the longest since the Institute first began tracking wait times in 1993. The wait time for a patient referred by a general practitioner to a specialist rose from a median of 8.9 weeks in 2010 to 9.5 weeks in 2011 (up 156 percent since 1993). Patients can then expect to wait an additional 9.5 weeks before actually receiving treatment from the specialist, up from 9.3 weeks in 2010 (a 70 percent increase since 1993).

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Under the definition of “median wait time” in the Fraser report, half of all patients get treatment sooner than the median, while half must wait even longer.

Canada has a “single payer” health care system, in which nearly all health care services are paid for by the government, and the private practice (and purchase) of medical services is significantly restricted. Under the pending “Obamacare” law in the United States, the government would assume the cost for most medical treatment through individual insurance subsidies, and private medicine would not be restricted.

Under the Canadian system, bureaucrats and politicians are responsible for determining the “global” budget of all health care services the government will pay for during any given year. Under Obamacare, the amount of spending is theoretically open-ended, but it's likely that future budget deficits will pressure policymakers to impose various forms of direct or indirect rationing to contain costs, as happens in Canada. Restricting the number of providers — and so imposing longer wait times — is probably the most common form of rationing used by government-run health care systems. 

The Mackinac Center has produced a series of videos, titled Oh Canada?, documenting the suffering and inconvenience individual Canadians have endured because of excessive wait times for treatment.   


See also:

A Real Canadian Health Care Experience

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