Who will institute a wait time guarantee in the US?

In Canada, where waiting times for health care are acknowledged as a problem, the government is trying to do something about it (Health wait-time deadline: 2010)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared victory yesterday in his effort to extract health-care wait-time guarantees from the provinces and territories, but medical experts and opposition critics declared the mission far from accomplished.

Implementing a wait-times guarantee for patients was one of the Conservatives’ five priorities during the last election campaign.

Harper announced yesterday all the provinces and territories have agreed to establish wait-times guarantees by 2010.

Critics say the government still isn’t doing enough, and I’m sure it’s true. Nonetheless at least waiting times are systematically measured and discussed in Canada and other countries with socialized health care, unlike in the US.

In Quebec, the newly enacted Bill 33 establishes guaranteed wait times for certain treatments and allows patients to be reimbursed by the government for private sector treatments if the times are exceeded.

Meanwhile even in Boston it can be very hard to get an appointment with a doctor. Yet we’re only at the stage of arguing about whether that’s even true, never mind systematically measuring delays and holding someone accountable for bringing them down. All of this in a system characterized by runaway spending.

April 6, 2007

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