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The True Cost of Waiting for Medical Care in Canada

May 2, 2024 From Fraser Institute

In May 2024, the Fraser Institute released its annual report on waiting times for medically necessary treatments in Canada, revealing significant economic costs associated with these delays. The study highlights not only the duration of these wait times but also the substantial private costs borne by individuals while awaiting care.

According to the report, an estimated 1,209,194 Canadians were waiting for treatment in 2023, facing a national median waiting time of 13.1 weeks from specialist appointment to treatment. This represents a slight improvement from 2022 when the median was 14.8 weeks. However, the total wait time from referral by a general practitioner to receiving treatment increased to 27.7 weeks, up from 27.4 weeks in the previous year.

The economic burden of these wait times is considerable with the report stating that the estimated cost of waiting for care in 2023 was nearly $3.5 billion, equating to approximately $2,871 per person. This estimate considers only the hours lost during the average workweek. If we include evenings and weekends, the cost escalates to $10.6 billion, or about $8,730 per individual.

These figures are based on the methodology developed by Steven Globerman and Lorna Hoye, which calculates the cost of waiting by estimating the amount of time rendered unproductive due to the physical and emotional impact of untreated medical conditions. Using data from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey, the report estimates that 13.2% of people waiting for treatment had experienced significant difficulties in their daily lives, leading to a loss of productivity.

It’s important to note that these estimates are conservative. They do not account for the costs borne by family members providing care, nor do they consider the increased risk of mortality or adverse medical events due to long delays. Further, the report does not include the initial wait time from a general practitioner’s referral to seeing a specialist, which averaged 14.6 weeks.

From a historical perspective, the private cost of waiting for treatment per patient in 2023 is 56% higher than in 2004, adjusted for inflation. This increase underscores the growing economic burden of healthcare wait times in Canada.

The rationing of health care through queues for medically necessary services imposes significant costs on individuals, both in terms of lost productivity and diminished quality of life. Addressing these delays could alleviate the financial and emotional strain on Canadians waiting for essential medical treatments.

For those seeking to mitigate the high costs and extensive wait times associated with medical care in Canada, Western Medical Assessments offers a solution. Our comprehensive independent medical examinations and other services are designed to save time and reduce expenses. Whether you are an employer, lawyer, or insurer, we can provide timely and accurate medical assessments that help streamline processes and improve outcomes. Reach out to us today to learn how we can support your needs and enhance efficiency.


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