Canadian healthcare – catching up

I’ve had a question about the Canadian healthcare system for a while now, which has been prompted by the endless, vitriolic debate south of the border about private versus public healthcare.

Critics of the Canadian healthcare system point to waiting lists as one of the big failures of our system. Of course this is a problem and it’s something that needs to be dealt with. The scale of the issue is another question.

While our system isn’t perfect, I certainly wouldn’t trade it for the US healthcare system where your coverage could be yanked if you’re just not profitable enough, if you even had health care coverage. The life expectancy of Canadians is higher than Americans too, so we can’t be doing too bad.

What I’ve wondered is how much would it cost to resolve the waiting lists in one year? If we were to spend the money necessary to take care of everyone on the waiting list who can reasonably be attended to, how much would that cost?

Of course that would not include people waiting for transplants. Obviously they can’t get real help until donors become available.

I know that urgent cases will always be moved to the front of the line, but when you’re in that line, your case is the number one priority, in your eyes! And who’s to doubt that? If you need knee or back surgery and can’t work because of it, it’s critical to get that treatment so you can be productive again.

My wife was seriously hurt at work and had an MRI very quickly. She’s been getting treatment and physiotherapy, so our system can work well for particular silos of patients, namely WCB claimants, although WCB claimants have many more issues when it comes to injuries that prevent them from working.

And what would the cost be compared to the costs of having these people languish on waiting lists? Would there be more tax revenue for government to offset that additional cost? If someone were to have to wait for two years on disability to get back surgery, if they were to get the back surgery sooner and get back to work quickly, surely that would be more beneficial to government coffers.

Also, by getting these surgeries done quickly, there would be less damage to undo. The longer someone has to wait, often more damage is done, making the problem worse and, in the end, more expensive.

So, has anyone in government has really looked at the opportunity cost of having all these people who can’t work languishing on waiting lists? When I look at how our governments operate today, I tend to doubt that it’s happened. Maybe someone needs to figure that out.

It would certainly be better in the long run if our healthcare system could keep up with current cases rather than having to deal with surgeries that should have been performed up to two years prior. Maybe that makes too much sense?