Frequently Asked Questions

Why travel outside Canada for medical treatment?

In a word…speed. Canadian wait lists for medical treatment are ridiculously, and sometimes even dangerously, long. Procedures that can take up to 2 years in Canada can be done in the USA within 2 weeks. It comes down to a personal decision but many Canadian patients decide that they do not want to wait in the public medicare system and put their lives on hold for months or years at a time.

Is it legal for a Canadian to travel to the USA for medical treatment?

Yes. While Canadians cannot legally jump the queue by paying for treatment in Canada, it is perfectly legal for a Canadian patient to travel outside the country to secure medical treatment on their own.

Why go outside of Canada when I will get treatment eventually?

It’s your choice but more and more Canadian patients are deciding that their quality of life is worth paying extra for. The reality is that you may wait months and even years for medical treatment in Canada which can be had in the USA within weeks. Many Canadian patients are deciding that they do not want to be disabled or “laid up” for months on end…their time and living quality is too important to them to wait. The other sad reality is that sometimes you won’t end up receiving the treatment you require in Canada. Even in situations of life threatening conditions, Canadians sometimes wait until its too late. The sad truth is that every year, many Canadian patients die while waiting on long lists for required medical treatment or surgery. Many other patients cannot stand the pain any longer and do not want to become dependant upon painkillers.

If my health is at risk, why has my doctor placed me on a waiting list?

It’s not your doctor’s fault. Doctors have little or no control over government wait lists. In fact, most Canadian doctors are as disgusted with the wait list times as their patients are. The Fraser Institute (a respected Canadian “think tank”) reported that medical specialists feel that over 90% of wait times are beyond clinically reasonable limits. Some cancer treatment can take up to 9 months to receive in Canada? Is that reasonable? Most doctors would say not.

Do I need a referral from my family doctor?

While it’s definitely helpful if your Canadian doctor will supply a detailed report to the American doctor or clinic, it’s not necessary most of the time. Generally, a doctor’s referral is not required (except for diagnostic imaging). Having said this, most Canadian doctors will provide you with a detailed report for a fee which you can use as your basis for engaging the USA medical provider.

Do I need a “medical broker” to facilitate my trip and my USA treatment?

In a word, no. While medical brokers certainly have their place in the medical tourism industry and can provide effective and helpful advice, most USA hospitals and clinics can provide essentially the same services for you as part of their regular services and as part of your booking process through them.

Will the Canadian or my provincial government cover the costs of my treatment outside of Canada? Usually no, except under very rare circumstances (you essentially have prove that the medical treatment was absolutely required and was absolutely not available in Canada….it is not in the Canadian government’s interests to accept this). Having said this, there are currently a few cases winding their way through the Canadian courts where patients are attempting to get the Canadian government to reimburse them for their out of country treatment. These will likely end up in the Supreme Court of Canada. Stay tuned.

How do I know that the USA surgeon or hospital is qualified?

The hospitals, clinics, and doctors listed on CanAmericaHealth.com are duly qualified in their respective fields. However, we encourage you to actively check references, websites, and state medical licensing boards before proceeding with treatment anywhere. We would also encourage you to ask the prospective hospital or clinic for their accreditations (there are several good and valid accrediting bodies) and check with those bodies to ensure that their accreditation is up to date. Don’t take chances in this regard.

What if I have surgical complications?

Check with the hospital or doctor in advance to ascertain how they handle complications and what cost that would likely result in. Also check with your travel health provider to see if they would cover the effects of treatment complications (usually they will not). The main thing is to see what the USA hospital’s responsibilities are and whether you have coverage to air ambulance back to Canada. Once you get back to Canada the Canadian medical system will pay for further care.

Will my Canadian physician provide my aftercare once I return from the USA after my surgery?

We recommend that you specifically ask your doctor this prior to traveling to the USA for your procedure. Generally, most doctors will gladly treat their patients when they arrive home (often quite happy that their patient received care more quickly). However, the rate Canadian doctor may refuse to help their patients after a USA surgery. In these rare cases, you can almost always locate a Canadian doctor willing to help.

How affordable is USA medical treatment?

This is a truly individual decision. Canadian medical treatment is free while American treatment costs money. Having said this, many patients find that the medical or surgical procedure that they require costs a lot less than they anticipated or were made to believe by Canadian authorities. We can advise you that USA medical treatment has been actually reducing in cost over the past few years. This is because, prior to the USA real estate and economic collapse of 2007/2008, the American healthcare industry overbuilt for a number of years. As such, there is actually a glut of both medical facilities and hospital beds (the opposite of Canada). This has driven prices down. The bottom line is that every person has their own set of priorities and means. Feel free to browse the top quality hospitals and clinics listed on CanAmericaHealth.com to see for yourself what treatment in the USA costs. If you decide to proceed rest assured the medical treatment available in the USA is second to none in the world.

Why choose the USA (and not somewhere else) for medical treatment?

There are primarily three main reasons why the USA is the BEST out of country medical alternative for Canadian patients.

  1. Close proximity to Canada:
    • Makes it less costly to fly to your treatment destination and you may very well be able to drive there.
    • The Mayo Clinic published a study stating that, if a patient flies over 5,000 klms for medical treatment (either pre or post-op) their chances of experiencing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) increase exponentially. Going for treatment in the USA greatly reduces flying time.
    • In the rate case where complications arise, you can get home to Canada faster and easier.
  2. They’re “just like us”:
    • No two countries in the world share as much culturally as the USA and Canada. When travelling to the USA you do not have to deal with cultural or language barriers and there is no risk of communication related errors occurring.
    • You are at reduced risk on contracting virus or bacteria that is foreign to the North American continent.
    • The standards of cleanliness on both hospitals, clinics and accommodations are similar in the USA as they are in Canada.
  3. The highest levels of quality healthcare:
    • The USA has the highest standards of medical licensing and hospital accreditation in the world.
    • American medical institutions are continually on the cutting edge of medical technology and medical and pharmaceutical advancements. American developed hospital accreditation is the “gold standard” that medical facilities the world over measure themselves by.

Can I travel alone or do I need a companion?

If you are able to it is always best to travel with a companion who is intimately aware of your medical condition and the reason for your trip. Before leaving ask your American doctor how long your expected convalescence will be and how soon after your treatment or procedure that you can travel back home. Then make sure your travel companion can accommodate that schedule. Some patients will travel to the USA facility on their own and have a travel companion go later to assist them in their recovery and trip back home.

Having said this, your need for a travel companion (or not) will depend upon the medical treatment/procedure that you are having done. Make sure to ask lots of questions of your doctor and USA medical facility to see how intense and difficult your recovery is expected to be and whether they feel that you should have a travel companion. Also ask the USA facility about their aftercare and whether or not they can or will provide aftercare nursing, whether they will provide that in a hotel environment etc.

Who travels for medical treatment?

People just like you. Canadians who are worried about their health and cannot stand to wait for a life altering or even life saving medical procedure. People who have decided that paying some money for medical treatment is a better alternative to placing their health in the hands of an arbitrary government mandated wait list. People who need to get healthy and functional fast in order to get back to gainful employment. Often, people decide that it is actually cost-effective to pay for medical treatment in the USA rather than stay off work for months or years waiting until the Canadian medicare system can make them whole again.

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