Why do Canadians seek medical treatment in another country?

Canadians, like people from other countries, are seeking medical assistance outside of their home country. Many people are looking for a less expensive option, while others are looking for a doctor who can provide the best results. Canadians have been looking for medical tourism options in Europe, the United States, Mexico, and other countries that can meet their standards.

While some people seek specialized treatment, others consider elective cosmetic or bariatric surgery. Others are looking for the best treatments to combat diseases such as cancer and infertility, or to have a procedure done sooner than the national healthcare system will allow.

Shortening appointment wait times and receiving alternative therapies are two of the most common reasons Canadians seek medical tourism. In Canada generally they have to wait longer to be seen by a doctor than in other countries.

What role does the Canadian Medicare program play in medical tourism?

Canadians look abroad for a solution for critical medical care, cosmetic surgery, specialty treatment, or to avoid long wait times. The publicly funded single payer health care system in Canada is known as Canadian Medicare. Despite being quite comprehensive, Canadian Medicare is cost conscious when it comes to providing treatments, and wait times can be very long. When covered by the Canadian Health Act’s universal healthcare, 65-75 percent of Canadians purchase supplemental health insurance.

One recent prostate cancer patient over the age of 70 was faced with the choice of having his castration performed in Canada or traveling outside of the country to receive a more desirable cancer treatment. We have seen Canadians pay up to $350,000 of their own money for quality care that would not be available in Canada or would require a risky wait. In addition, procedural costs can be reduced by paying in foreign currency, and traveling abroad allows patients to receive treatment sooner.

The 13 provinces and territories fund the Canadian healthcare financing system. Each has its own health insurance plan and is funded by the federal government. However, no nationally defined mandatory benefit package exists. That is why many Canadians, particularly those on a tight budget, look to other countries for monetary savings that can help them when receiving medical treatment that is not covered by Canadian Medicare.

Because dental and optical health are not covered by Canadian Medicare, Canadians seek this type of treatment abroad as well. Medical tourists from Canada seek a variety of procedures in this category, including orthodontic and reconstructive surgery.

Similarly, bariatric surgery for surgical weight loss assistance is an important procedure for which Canadians will travel. They can travel to Mexico or Venezuela, where the cost of this elective procedure is much lower. Finally, those who are in chronic pain due to the need for a hip replacement, knee replacement, other joint replacement, or other ailments will pay out of pocket to receive care sooner.

In Canada, between 400,000 and 500,000 people do not have health insurance. They could be landed immigrants, who must wait three months before receiving provincial benefits. They may also be temporary foreign workers, refugees, or asylum seekers. As a result, the uninsured may have a compelling financial reason to travel for medical care.

There are international insurance solutions available for Canadian residents looking for health tourism alternatives to the universal healthcare system, as well as travelers residing in Canada who do not have access to the universal healthcare system. Set medical procedure pricing in medical tourism does not typically include emergency complication medical bills. So, before you travel for medical care or to another country uninsured, please investigate your insurance options.
We are not Canadian healthcare experts, but we are merely citing trends we have observed, including feedback from Canadians medical tourism over the last 15 years.

When looking for specific Canadian universal care coverage questions, please consult a professional.

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