Weak U.S. Economy Lures Canadian Medical Tourists
Full to capacity hospitals and long wait times for specialists is prompting more Canadians to shop for their health care in the United States these days. It’s a case of supply and demand, coupled with a strong Canadian dollar and limping American one. Even average wage earning Canadians can now jump health care waiting lines by looking south of the border. Shopping in America for cars and vacation homes already, Canucks have added heart bypasses and hip replacements to their wish lists.
Strained Canadian System
The issue goes beyond which system provides superior care, settling on the more important issue of access. With Canadian hospitals operating at capacity, and specialists unable to meet demands for their services, people with means turn to health care brokers. These agencies hook them up with hospitals in the States with beds to fill, and doctors willing to oblige patients who often pay upfront and in cash.
Long Wait Times
Wait times that still average between a year and 18 months for hip and knee replacements drive some to seek care in the U.S. This in spite of the recent $5.5 billion dollars the Canadian federal government initiative to decrease waitng lists. However, heart and spinal surgery increasingly draws patients south too.
For U.S. health care, the tourism is a welcome relief in troubled economic times. Because insurance paperwork drives much of the cost for healthcare, Canadian patients who pay cash eliminates this expense. They also fill idle hospital beds that make no money for institutions when they are empty.
What Do You Think?
American hospitals are steeply discounting procedures, and the price of inpatient care, in order to lure Canadian patients, and Canadians are returning to their home provinces, expecting them to pick up the tab for aftercare or rehabilitation. A win-win situation? Or a scam?
Though it is not just the wealthy who are able to come from Canada for care, queue-jumping is largely frowned upon by Canadians, and the discounts call into question the American healthcare’s practice of passing along the cost of bargains to the insured who are facing rising premiums and co-pays.
What do you think? Let’s hear your stories and opinions.