G.K.D. Crozier contends that a regulated market in inbound medical tourism in Ontario could be preferable to either a blind-eye approach or a complete ban on the practice.
In November 2014, a coalition of Ontario health professional organizations, including the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), urged the Ontario government to stop “turning a blind eye” to the Medical Tourism (MT) that was taking place in several Ontario hospitals. The RNAO defines MT as “a practice where health-care organizations create for-profit programs to attract patients from other countries to receive healthcare on a pay-for-treatment basis.” As such, MT refers to ‘inbound medical travel’ rather than ‘outbound medical travel’ where Canadians go abroad. It also refers to for-profit and commercialized MT as opposed to humanitarian cases (such as specialized medical care for sick children abroad, or subsidized healthcare for victims of war).
In response to the coalition’s statement concerning MT, Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, advised that Ontario hospitals should refrain from using public funds to treat international patients and allowing international patients to displace Ontarians (sometimes referred to as ‘jumping the queue’). Additionally, he advised that Ontario hospitals should reinvest revenue received from international patients into Ontario’s public healthcare system.
While the RNAO praises this step, it has further reinvigorated its opposition to MT, calling for a full ban on this practice within the province. The organization argues that the very existence of MT threatens Ontario’s Medicare system by:
- Allowing international patients to receive immediate medical care while Ontarians are forced to languish on wait lists for scarce resources;
- Setting a dangerous precedent for a two-tiered healthcare system, whereby even wealthy Ontarian patients could demand preferential treatment, effectively ‘jumping the queue’; and
- Treating health as a commodity, which undermines the very nature of Ontario’s public healthcare system.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.