Friday, November 6, 2009

Americans "Filching" Canada's Health Insurance System by the Thousands

Health Insurance Statistics

A report, released by the Ontario Health Minister – and cited in the New York Times – indicated that thousands of Americans are illegally taking advantage of Canada’s health care system. According to the study, which was originally conducted from August 1992 to February 1993 (yet still holds a lot of water in the midst of a national health debate), 60,000 claims were made out on behalf of people who had American drivers’ licenses. Presumably Americans who are uninsured are finding affordable ways to bypass the high cost of health care in the U.S. The consumer site, Affordable Health Insurance states that over 45 million Americans are uninsured, and many of these uninsured Americans have apparently found the benefits of Canada's health care system.

Canada's Health System

The Canada government stipulates that legal residents qualify for free medical care as long as they are able to produce health cards for identification. The same report indicated that the lack of controls cost the health care system as much as $691 million annually. Although Americans are not the only ones taking advantage of Canada’s system, they are the most prevalent simply because of proximity (90% percent of Canadians are within 100 miles of the United States). Many Americans choose to avail of Canada’s system because of their dissatisfaction with the health insurance system of their home country.

Changes in the Health Care System

As a result, stricter policies are suggested to be put in place to save money. Canada’s officials have suggested the criminal prosecution of those committing fraud, monitoring of card use, and collection for medical services provided from ineligible users. A proposal to redesign the health card is also in place.

One of the suggestions is to put pictures on the card to prevent them from being routinely borrowed by ineligible individuals. Finally, doctors are required to be tougher when it comes to screening potential patients.

A new bill in the Ontario Legislature states that if a doctor has reasonable grounds to think that the health card is fraudulently used, liability on confidentiality grounds no longer applies. The Canadian government has indicated that the illegal use of its resources is a temporary phenomenon and will ease up once America successfully pushes for its health reform.