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The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care: 2013 edition

Type: Research Studies
Date Published: July 18, 2013
Research Topics:

The measurement of health care waiting times, or the examination of the absolute delay Canadians must endure in order to receive medically necessary care, is only one way of looking at the burden of waiting for health care. We can also calculate the privately borne cost of waiting: the value of the time that is lost while waiting for treatment.

The estimated cost of waiting for care in Canada for patients who were in the queue in 2012 was $982 million—an average of about $1,129 for each of the estimated 870,462 Canadians waiting for treatment in 2012. The estimate is conservative; it assumes that only those hours during the average work week should be counted as lost and places no intrinsic value on the time individuals spend waiting in a reduced capacity outside of the work week. Valuing all hours of the week, including evenings and weekends but excluding eight hours of sleep per night, would increase the estimated cost of waiting to slightly more than $3 billion, or about $3,447 per person. This estimate only counts costs that are borne by the individual waiting for treatment. The costs of care provided by family members (the time spent caring for the individual waiting for treatment) and their lost productivity due to difficulty or mental anguish are not valued in this estimate.

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