Sick health care system made Canadians lose more than $3-billion in economic activity: Fraser Institute
CalgaryHerald.com – business
1 August 2012. Dan Ovsey, Financial Post
The key to boosting productivity in Canada may come from an often overlooked but seemingly logical source – health care.
So says a study released this morning by the Fraser Institute, which estimated that last year Canada lost $1.08-billion in business-day economic activity due to excessive wait times at hospitals and time gaps between visits to specialists and receipt of treatment.
Long waits in emergency rooms and forcing Canadians to take time out their work days to visit multiple doctors has a cumulative effect not only on the quality of their care but on the overall productivity of the workforce, says the report.
The study estimates that when factoring non-work time, the Canadian economy loses out on an about $3.29-billion in productivity – a number that does not take into account the residual productivity losses associated with the energy and time family members may need to provide to loved ones who are not receiving efficient care.
Nadeem Esmail, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, says the purpose of the study was to examine the efficacy of the healthcare system beyond the quality-of-care debate, which tends to overwhelm most discussion about health care.
“Rationing health care in Canada doesn’t just deprive patients of timely access to necessary medical treatment… it also causes them to lose out on wages, productivity and enjoyment in life while they wait,” he says.
The study estimates each patient loses about $3,490 each year as a result of having to wait 9.5 weeks between the time they see a specialist and the time they are able to receive care.
While Canada’s healthcare system isn’t nearly as costly as that of the U.S., spending on health care has been rising at a much faster rate than most other industrialized nations. Much of the spending has been due to a fluid transfer of healthcare-dedicated funds from Ottawa to provincial coffers, but how each province spends those resources and how effectively it cuts costs is still a bone of contention.
With more and more attention being placed on Canada’s poor productivity relative to other industrialized nations, Mr. Esmail says it’s high time Canada’s leaders begin examining more efficient means of providing health care through a socialized healthcare model that operates parallel to a private care model that is open to competition (similar to the model used in Japan and numerous European nations).
“They all have a private parallel medical sector,” says Mr. Esmail. “That is, patients aren’t shackled to the public healthcare system with no alternatives. They are able to buy their health care if they choose to do so. Finally and critically, all of these nations have a social-insurance funded healthcare system. It’s not a system run by government, it’s run by an independent group or, in some instances, private insurance companies, with the government taking a more appropriate regulatory role.”
The problem is likely to get worse as the population ages and more Canadians require higher levels of care over longer periods of time. The Canadian Caregiver Coalition estimates there are already more than 4-million Canadians today who are taking care of ailing family members and collectively losing out on $5-billion in earnings as a result. Couple that data with the fact that those same caregivers are spending more than $80-million a year on caregiving expenses and the economic consequences suddenly become severe.
The question is: Is anyone paying attention?