According to the latest federal estimates, more than a quarter of Americans receive taxpayer-funded health care through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
But this “free” coverage comes at a significant cost. Medicaid beneficiaries have to wait longer for care than those with private insurance. A 2021 study found that Medicaid patients waited 1.3 days longer for primary care than those with commercial insurance.
Another study found that Medicaid beneficiaries were 1.6 times less likely to successfully schedule a primary care appointment than those with basic insurance and 3.3 times less likely to receive a specialist appointment.
Such expectations are common to public health insurance. A new research paper from the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, shows what happens when everyone in a country is trapped in the public health insurance system.
This year, Canadian patients had to wait a median of 27.7 weeks for medically necessary care from a specialist after receiving a referral from a general practitioner. More than six months, it is the longest ever recorded. That’s a slight increase from last year’s median and 198% more than the 9.3-week median patients faced in 1993, when Fraser began tracking wait times.
Some patients have it worse than others. Patients in Nova Scotia wait a median of 56.7 weeks for more than a year after being referred by a general practitioner. Those on Prince Edward Island also have a year-long waiting club, with a median of just over 55 weeks.
Patients have to wait the longest for plastic surgery after referral, the median is a little over 52 weeks. Orthopedics and neurosurgery are close behind, with media waiting times of just over 44 weeks and neurosurgery 43 weeks.
Overall, patients waited just under five weeks longer than doctors’ “clinically reasonable” median to receive treatment from a specialist after receiving a referral. Such long delays in treatment can put patients’ health at risk, as can long waits for diagnosis. In 2023, Canadians had to wait an average of 13 weeks for an MRI, 6.6 weeks for a CT scan and just over 5 weeks for an ultrasound.
Overall, more than 1.2 million Canadians out of a population of 38 million were waiting for some kind of treatment in 2023. If each of these patients is waiting for just one procedure, that means 3% of the Canadian population was waiting for treatment. receive medical treatment this year. In Nova Scotia, just over 8% of the province’s population was stuck in line.
These delays harm more than individual patients. Looking only at the number of work hours lost by people waiting in line for care, the Fraser study found that healthcare waiting costs Canada just under $3,000 per person to $3.6 billion in 2022. When all hours of the week are taken into account, doctor waiting costs the country $10.9. billion just under $9,000 per patient.
Other studies have shown that delays in certain diagnostics and treatments cost the economy about $15 billion a year.
Then there are the direct costs associated with this waiting. The average Canadian family of four paid about $17,000 in taxes to fund the country’s “free” health care system in 2023. Their tax dollars seem to just buy them a place in line.
Many Canadians are fed up. Less than half were satisfied with the country’s health care system in 2023, while in 2020 it was almost 70 percent. A growing number of politicians, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have begun speaking out about the problems of socialized medicine and working to help patients access private care. options.
Democrats have made Medicaid expansion the centerpiece of their health care reform. Over the last decade, they have been quite successful, as enrollment has increased by 57 percent.
The progressive wing of the party still wants Medicare for All, a full government takeover of the health insurance system that would bring Canada-style health care to the United States. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who has posed the primary challenge to President Biden, recently endorsed the Medicare for All program.
But expanding coverage is not the same as expanding access to care. Canadians know this truth all too well, as their government insurance card only buys them a month-long wait for treatment.
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