There are huge economic costs — along with health costs — for long wait times in Canada

CBC News
Health Cost CBC James Alexander Michie

Some may argue that, while high, this is the necessary price to pay for universal health care. But that's not at all true. (Shutterstock)

There is no doubt that in Canada there are huge economic costs, along with health costs, due to long waiting times in Canada.

An important factor to highlight is that perceptions about how much Canadians pay for medical care vary enormously. That being the case, there are those who call it a “free” system. While some analysts try to find out how much is actually paid through taxes. However, it is necessary to emphasize that this health care system has an additional cost: waiting time.

Likewise, during the past year, it was estimated that 1,082,541 Canadians expected medically necessary treatment. That’s an amazing number considering that these patients faced an average wait of 11 weeks. And that’s after they’ve seen a specialist. While some of these patients endured their wait without too much inconvenience, many others probably were not as lucky. They waited with considerable pain and discomfort, unable to use their time productively. In the worst case, it is possible that patients have experienced a deterioration in their health and have faced poorer medical outcomes when they finally received the treatment.

Significant loss

According to a recent study, the economic cost of time lost while awaiting treatment, that is, the monetary value of lost productive time was examined. Using the time-out data, along with Statistics Canada data on salaries and the proportion of patients who reported waiting affected their lives (13.2 percent), the study estimated a cost to the economy of $ 2.1 billion in salaries lost and productivity. That translates to $ 1,924 (on average) for each of the 1,082,541 patients waiting for treatment.

It should be noted that this is a conservative estimate, which does not give time value outside of the hours during the work week. Of course, these hours in our lives, and our ability to spend without pain, pursue our hobbies and relate to the family, are also valuable. After adding the value of time lost outside of the work week (nights and weekends), the cost increases to $ 6.3 billion or $ 5.860 per patient. And even this estimate excludes eight hours (to sleep) and the waiting of 8.8 weeks to see a specialist first.

Even so, Commonwealth Fund data routinely indicates that other universal health care countries, such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, and France have much shorter waiting times for medical care than Canada.

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Source: Bacchus Barua | CBC News

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