Grass looks greener

Excessive wait times have spurred an ironic trend: Canadian patients are travelling to the United States for health care and exploring private health care options. At the same time Americans also are travelling out of the country for care and batting around the idea of a universal system, says Molly Bernhart of Employee Benefit News.

For Canadians, the problem is the inefficiency of universal care:

  • The average wait time for a CT scan at 4.3 weeks and the average wait for an MRI at 10.3 weeks.

  • Overall, the total waiting time for patients between referral from a general practitioner and treatment was 17.8 weeks in 2006.

    Americans, on the other hand, are leaving the country for an entirely different reason, says Don Copeman, founder and president of Vancouver-based Copeman Healthcare Inc. They simply want to save money, since the cost of U.S. care is very high relative to most countries.

    But American consumers aren't the only ones looking at the Canadian health care system. Employers are noticing how the situation in Canada is affecting their business. U.S.-based companies employing Canadians are encountering the same high presenteeism and low productivity that are hallmarks of unhealthy employees in Canada, says Bernhart. With increased wait times only compounding the issue, several employers are paying for employees' membership in preventive plans.

    "What U.S. companies should be doing universally is accessing private medical facilities when possible to expedite/improve care here, says Copeman, and when not successful, sending their employees to the nearest U.S. city for care under a contingency health insurance agreement with a U.S. provider."

    Source: Molly Bernhart, The grass looks greener: Canadians look to private care, U.S.-based medical tourism as alternatives,, February 1, 2007.

    For text:

    For more on Health Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 06 February 2007
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