I hear it all the time: “Why can’t I get my hip replacement done in Florida? It’s going to take me a year to get it in Canada.”
It’s a common complaint from patients being stabilized in U.S. hospitals until they can get home and join the wait list for hips, knees, heart bypasses, any number of chronic conditions.
They know they can be treated right where they are—in Arizona, Texas, Florida, California—but travel insurers will not approve the procedures.
“It’s not fair,” they say. Why should they suffer pain and immobility for long weeks or months if it can be relieved right away?
The answer, of course, is all about money.
Travel insurance is designed for emergencies only and not priced for treatment of chronic conditions that can wait until the patient is returned to a hospital in Canada. It is not a substitute for provincial health insurance. It is structured to treat an emergency, get the client stabilized and sent back to Canada for continuing care. If it were designed and priced for treatment of all chronic conditions, many of you wouldn’t be able to afford-out-of country travel insurance, consequently a very large proportion of you would have to spend your winters in Canada.
From the government point of view, the wait lists are a necessity because provinces, and their federal cohorts, say there isn’t enough money to help doctors and hospitals eliminate the wait lists. In fact most provinces now accept that wait lists are a fact of life and even set limits as to what they consider “tolerable” wait times for certain chronic conditions.
Consequently, when a Canadian tourist suffers a fractured hip or serious heart attack, he or she assumes it might as well be fully treated while they are “down south.” Sometimes, though not often, it is, if the condition is a true emergency and the patient can’t be returned home safely by commercial line or air ambulance. But if the patient can be stabilized until they are fit to travel and can be returned home, they will be. That’s what travel insurance was designed for—not to bail out a health system that relies on wait lists to keep health spending under control.