TRUE NORTH COLUMN: It’s time to think across borders on health reform
Imagine if provincial governments could immediately reduce long health care wait times for thousands of patients from “years” to “weeks.” Canada could do just that if we copied a policy from the European Union called the Cross-Border Directive.
In the European Union, patients have the right to travel to another EU country for surgery, pay for it, and then be reimbursed by their government. Reimbursements cover up to the same amount it would have cost their government to provide the procedure locally.
It’s true that provincial governments sometimes reimburse patients for surgery in other jurisdictions – but that’s not the norm. Such cases tend to involve treating very rare diseases rather than common problems such as hip and knee replacements.
Take, for instance, Sharon Kilkenny. The Saskatchewan woman faced a 93-week wait for hip replacement surgery. She couldn’t put up with the pain and mobility loss for that long, so she traveled to Alberta and paid for private surgery.
After she had her surgery in April of 2022, she decided to see if she could receive reimbursement from the provincial government. She told SecondStreet.org that, after eight months, she was denied.
If provincial governments had the same policy as the E.U.’s Cross-Border Directive, it would have made Sharon’s life a lot easier – and the lives of thousands of other patients, who don’t have the means to scrape together enough money to travel for care.
Research shows Canadians love the idea of bringing this E.U. policy to Canada.
SecondStreet.org recently hired Leger to poll Canadians on what they think about the idea of copying the EU’s Cross-Border Directive. The results were conclusive. A staggering 74 per cent of respondents are in favour of implementing the policy in Canada. Support was high across all age groups, coast-to-coast, and among both men and women.
And why shouldn’t it be?
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