2002 November 15 Friday
Waiting Times For Canadian Health Care

David Frum reports on the sorry state of Canadian health care:

Every year Canada’s leading free-market think-tank, the Fraser Institute, compiles waiting times across Canada in a report called “Waiting Your Turn.” Here are some highlights from this year’s edition.

Median waiting time for radiation treatment for breast cancer in province of Ontario: 8 weeks
Median waiting time for angioplasty in the province of British Columbia: 12 weeks
Median waiting time for radiation treatment for prostate cancer in province of Quebec: 12 weeks
Median waiting time for cataract removal in the province of Ontario: 20 weeks.
Median waiting time for cataract removal in the province of Saskatchewan: 52 weeks.
Median waiting time for a tonsillectomy in the province of Saskatchewan: 80 weeks.

If you want to see how much worse Canadian healthcare availability has gotten then see the graphs in page two of this PDF (note: Acrobat Reader or equivalent PDF viewing app needed). Also see page 3. Once a person finally gets in to see a specialist that doesn't mean they are anywhere near getting an actual surgical treatment done to them. The text version as a PDF is available as well.

Frum suggests comparing Northwestern US states and Western Canadian provinces that have similar ethnic makeup (as different ethnic groups get cancer at different rates in the first place) and other characteristics for cancer fatality rates. See these tables and compare Colorado, Idaho, and Utah with the Canadian Western provinces. For instance, Utah and Alberta have almost identical cancer incidence rates at 307 and 312.8 respectively but the male case fatality rates are .3456 and .43798 respectively. British Columbia scores lowest in case fatality rates of all Canadian provinces and yet it is worse than almost half the US states.

In the face of this wonderful trend in Canadian health care access the provinces are lowering the growth rate in health care spending. From the Canadian Institute For Health Information this PDF is a summary of Canadian health spending.

Update: David Frum responds to some of the critics of his original piece:

c) The Canadian population is demographically different from America’s in important ways. The average age of the Canadian population is lower than that of the United States. There is less obesity in Canada, fewer premature births, fewer victims of assault and attempted homicide. Canadians also drive fewer miles per year than Americans. These differences impose costs on the United States that the Canadian system does not bear. Even under exactly identical health-care policy regimes, one would expect health-care expenditure in the United States to be significantly higher than in Canada.

d) Advocates of single payer often cite Canada’s lower expenditure on healthcare as an argument in favor of the Canadian system. Then, when confronted with the evidence of the Canadian system’s failure, they admit that America’s 14% is not all frittered away on advertising and obscene HMO profits – that it does indeed buy superior care. But if the American system is not riddled with waste that single-payer will squeeze out, then extending a single-payer system to cover the entire U.S. population will be just as hugely expensive as conservative critics fear.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 15 04:37 PM  Socialism, Capitalism

John Murphy said at January 11, 2010 1:08 AM:

Canadians live an average of three years longer than Americans and Canadians believe that Anericans have third world health care for at least 36% of it's citizens. Your information on waiting lists is not factually true. Most Canadians know of noone who has EVER been on a waiting list. Many Americans wait far longer than Canadians. Many Americans have a waiting time of decades, if they need treatment at say, age 40 and have to wait (if they actually survive) until they are 65 to get Medicare to be able to get the treatmant they needed since they were 40. That's a 25 year waiting list. The current US insurance-run system is the most bureaucratic, most parasitic, having 41% overhead, whereas a government funded, physician-run, single payer system, like Canada has, has overhead of about 10%, which means that by going to a single payer system will automatically save 31% over what falls into a black hole with the insurance takeover of the US health care system. Before you post such biased, misleading, and for the most part, false information, look at the inferior US system. The US third world insurance-run system, with US insurance company bureaucrats standing between physicans and patients, and with the insurance company bureaucrats, not the physicians making the medical decisions for patients, and insurance companies rationing health care to increase their bottom line, is what you should spend your time on, not spreading falsehoods about other nations, which you obviously know nothing about.

Bob Badour said at January 11, 2010 7:32 AM:


You are talking out of your ass.

As far back as the early 1980's, my grand-uncle died of a heart attack while on a wait list for heart surgery.

When I lived in Ontario, it took me over 6 years to get a family doctor, and I only got one then because my mother begged her doctor to accept me as a patient. The doctor only accepted me as a patient because I was healthy and had no dependents. I had to drive to another town to see her. Without a family doctor, I was effectively cut out of the health care system entirely. I had the same level of care available to me as a homeless wino would have in the US.

Colon cancer runs in my family. Once I got a family doctor, I had to wait a year--a full year--for an appointment with a specialist who does colonoscopies. After I met the specialist, I had to wait another year for an opening in the O/R. It took me 8 years to get a routine biannual screening procedure, and I might never have gotten one.

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