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Wait Times for Care in Canada’s Health System

By December 13, 2018December 15th, 2018Commentary

With the Democrats hell-bent on doing even more damage to the health system by putting it under ever greater government control, it is worth remembering that the experience of countries with national health insurance or health care systems is far from universally positive, as a new report from the Frasier Institute on wait times for care in Canada points out.   (Frasier Report)   The report is based on a survey, conducted annually for about 20 years, across Canada’s provinces of doctors in 12 specialties.  While wait times have decreased from last year, the median was 19.8 weeks (that’s right, 5 months) in 2018 compared to 21.2 weeks in 2017; it is and should be astounding that anyone should have to wait that long for access to apparently needed care.  And for comparison, in 1993 the median wait time was 9.3 weeks, so the system’s performance hasn’t gotten any better.  Performance varies widely across provinces; in Saskatchewan the median was 15.4 weeks and in New Brunswick it was 45.1 weeks.  The longest wait was for orthopedic surgery, 39 weeks, while the wait for medical oncology treatment was a mere 3.8 weeks (which probably only seems like a lifetime while that tumor is growing inside you).  Waiting for a referral from a primary care doctor to a specialist took a medical of 10.2 weeks last year but declined to 8.7 weeks in 2018; but it was only 3.7 weeks in 1993.  The wait time from seeing the specialist to actual treatment was 11 weeks in 2018, essentially flat with 2017.  It was only 5.6 weeks in 1993.  People in Canada are estimated to be waiting for over one million procedures, so around 3% of the population.  Diagnostic procedures have long wait times, 10.6 weeks for an MRI, 4.3 weeks for CT scans and even an ultrasound requires a 3.9 week wait.  As the report notes, aside from anxiety and frustration, these wait times can lead to poorer health outcomes.

Gee, it is just shocking to me that a government-run health system not only apparently can’t fix this problem, but actually seems to have made it much worse over the last 25 years.  Government is so wonderful and so good at delivering health insurance and health care, how could that possibly be.  The answer is pretty obvious.  You screw with private free markets, you pay a big price eventually.  No one is that smart that they can do a better job of arranging and paying for care than would result from the private decisions of individuals and firms in the market.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that a bunch of moronic government employees can operate a health system in an effective manner.  And why would any of us want our health to be controlled by people running a system like that.  But, by all means, lets move ahead with Medicare for all or some equally inane scheme, so we can all find out for ourselves just how bad it can be.

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