Days after the Canadian health care system came up in the second U.S. presidential debate, a new study from the Fraser Institute says 45,619 Canadians went outside the country for non-emergency medical treatment in 2015.
That’s actually a decline from the previous year when 52,513 who went abroad for medical treatments but higher than the 41,838 who travelled for treatment in 2013.
The largest number of patients estimated to have left the country for treatment was from Ontario at 22,352 while physicians in British Columbia reported the highest proportion of patients (in a province) receiving treatment abroad at 1.5 per cent.
The study from the Vancouver-based think tank comes days after Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sparred over the issue of so-called “Obamacare” during the second presidential debate, with the Republican presidential nominee comparing it to the Canadian health care system which he characterized as “slow” and “catastrophic.”
Trump said when Canadians need a big operation, they go to the United States. The study from the Fraser Institute didn’t specify how many Canadians went down south for treatment, only that they left the country.
WATCH: Trump calls ‘slow’ Canadian healthcare ‘catastrophic’
Clinton and Trump discussed how they would bring down the cost of healthcare premiums after the Affordable Care Act was passed, otherwise known as “Obamacare.”
“[Clinton] wants to go to a single payer plan which would be a disaster, somewhat similar to Canada,” Trump said during the debate in St. Louis. “And if you ever notice the Canadians, when they need a big operation, when something happens they come into the United State in many cases. Because their system is so slow it’s catastrophic in certain ways.”
Trump’s comments appear to be a reversal from his stance on single payer healthcare systems after praising Canada during the first GOP debate last August.
“As far as single payer, it works in Canada,” Trump said. “It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here.”
However, Trump hammered Obamacare during the debate Sunday calling it “very bad, very bad health insurance.”
While Clinton agreed that premiums were high, she added that it’s a good thing that millions of more people now have access to health insurance compared to before the Affordable Care Act was passed.
The Fraser Institute has long been a supporter of increasing private health care in Canada.
Across Canada, urologists reported the highest proportion of patients (in a specialty) travelling abroad for treatment at 1.6% per cent. The largest number of patients (in a specialty) also travelled abroad for urology procedures.
One explanation for patients traveling abroad to receive medical treatment may relate to the long waiting times they are forced endure in Canada’s health care system.
In 2015, patients could expect to wait 9.8 weeks for medically necessary treatment after seeing a specialist-almost 3 weeks longer than the time physicians consider to be clinically “reasonable” (7.1 weeks).
However, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, a federally funded non-profit organization, found that wait times to see a doctor in an emergency room have steadily dropped over the last five years.
According to the Associated Press, it’s actually Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — not Clinton — who supports a Canada-style government-run health care system.
Clinton’s health care proposals have called for an expanded role by the government in health, but has never said she would dismantle the current system, which is a hybrid of employer-sponsored coverage, government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and individually purchased insurance.
Clinton said if elected president she would push for a government-sponsored insurance plan in the health care markets created by President Barack Obama’s health care law, as an alternative to private insurance. But those markets currently cover about 11 million people, while about 155 million have job-based coverage.
WATCH BELOW: How Canadian health care system measures up to other countries