The Cost of Waiting for Medical Treatment

Many Canadians experience delays in getting to timely health care they need. Some of the delays have a real impact on one’s overall health, including mental health. We wanted to examine a little closer what those impacts may be and if access to a private treatment faster can alleviate some of the issues.

Perhaps the most frustrating part is that we have to live in the unknown for a while. The unknown means different things to different people and their medical cases. At times It is an unknown that we can handle, i.e. if someone is having a shoulder pain that doesn’t impede his or her daily activities to a severe degree and that person is waiting 3-4 months to get an ultrasound.

It’s frustrating nevertheless. Even though the healthcare is free, we are well aware that it is not so. According to the Fraser Institute, an average Canadian family of four will pay about $12,000 for public healthcare, while the average single individual will pay about $4,600. These amounts vary by income level. So the average family in the lowest 10 percent of income-earners will pay a little less than $500, while those in among the top 10 percent will pay almost $40,000.(1)

So what happens if it is a health concern that has not been properly diagnosed or treated? The reasons could be because the diagnostic services have a wait list of their own; long wait times to see a specialist; or a person has been to a couple of specialists with no clear diagnosis. What if a person was diagnosed but the wait list for treatment is over 1 year? What are the consequences of such situations? There are many.

First is the loss of income due to excessive absences or disability. Canadian Labour Code protects job security for 17 weeks but there is no provision for paid leave of absence. If you are unable to walk or sit at your job due to a bad hip or knee, you may not be able to work and therefore lose significant income.

The second one is that your overall health may be in jeopardy. If you were an active person and enjoyed physical exercise you will quickly find yourself that due to pain and limited physical activity your body is no longer receiving the benefits and starts to deteriorate. Muscle loss and shortness of breath can develop rather quickly.

The third significant effect of waiting is the state of your mental health. It is compromised due to dealing with uncertainty and constant pain. Things that you used to enjoy such as spending time with friends and family may be off limit to you because you are dealing with mobility and pain issues. You may feel isolated and develop mental anguish.

Needless to say, your general health and the quality of life are negatively affected by having to wait for medical help. What if you were to get it done quicker through private channels? The cost of private total knee replacement at one of our US facilities is USD $15,499. Another facility we work with in Canada offers it for CAD$20,000. Many Canadians decide to seek help elsewhere. To them, the quality of life trumps the issue of having to pay for their treatments. What are your thoughts on this?


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