Posts Tagged ‘U.S. health care’

Chart of Canadian health care migrants

January 14, 2011

Economist Aaron Carroll made this chart to summarize an article in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs.

This study examined Canadians crossing the border for care in a number of ways:

1) First, they surveyed United States border facilities in Michigan, New York, and Washington.  It makes sense that Canadians crossing the border for care would favor sites close by, right?  It turns out that about 80% of such facilities saw fewer than one Canadian per month.  About 40% saw none in the prior year.  And when looking at the reasons for visits, more than 80% were emergencies or urgent visits (i.e. tourists who had to go to the ER).  Only about 19% of those already few visits were for elective purposes.

2) Next, they surveyed “America’s Best Hospitals”, because if Canadians were going to travel for care, they would be more likely to go to the most well-known and highest quality facilities, right?  Only one of the surveyed hospitals saw more than 60 Canadians in one year.  And, again, that included both emergencies and elective care.

3) Finally, they examined data from the 18,000 Canadians who participated in the National Population Health Survey.  In the previous year, only 90 of those 18,000 Canadians had received care in the United States; only 20 of them had done so electively.

Carroll noted that this study does not necessarily prove that the Canadian health care system is flawless or that the United States system is completely bad.  What it does prove is that there is no truth to the widespread belief that Canadians flock to the United States for medical care because of long wait times in their own country.

Look, I’m not denying that some people with means might come to the United States for care.  If I needed a heart/lung transplant, there’s no place I’d rather be.  But for the vast, vast majority of people, that’s not happening.  You shouldn’t use the anecdote to describe things at a population level.  This study showed you three different methodologies, all with solid rationales behind them, all showing that this meme is mostly apocryphal.

Via The Incidental Economist.

Click on Phantoms in the Snow for the Health Affairs study.

This chart was named Chart of the Year for 2010 by Andrew Sullivan on The Daily Dish web log.