Where this blog began, it now returns.
Canadians have always had a theoretical ability to jump the queue and get faster health care by simply going to a hospital in the United States. But the fact that the care would cost tens of thousands - even hundreds of thousands - of dollars kept most people from doing so.
Only the rich could afford it.
But as Leigh Turner, a medical ethicist at McGill University told me, international queue jumping is now a viable option for the middle class because places like India and Singapore offer surgery at prices as low as one-tenth those in the US. That's a potential threat to medicare, he says, because it could lead to pressure to let people spend the money to queue jump at home, keeping the money and jobs here.
It's an issue I examine today in a package of stories in the Saturday Star.
Queue jumpers, mainly from Canada and the UK, make up a big part of the medical tourism industry - about 15 per cent of the worldwide market. Most are still rich people from the Third World looking to get better care or access to better technology outside their own countries. But the focus is expected to shift as North Americans catch on to the idea.
And there's a burgeoning industry on the continent to help them do it. One of those companies, Healthbase Online Inc., helped Jill Misangyi of Hamilton go to India for back surgery she had waited for in Canada for 16 years. The company handled everything - even arranging for her to be picked up at the airport. It was as easy, she says, as booking a trip through a travel agent, and cost about the same as a family vacation.
The medical tourism industry is not huge, but it's growing fast. And as long as there are waiting lists in Canada, there may well be a market for it.
Dr. Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association, says the solution is simple: get rid of the waiting lists. He would like to do this by changing the way hospitals are funded, giving them a financial incentive to do more surgeries. He is also comfortable with letting people pay for faster service at home. Once the waiting lists are gone, he says, Canada could even become a medical tourism destination.
Read all about it in the Saturday Star. It's a big issue that isn't likely to go away any time soon.