Why Wait for Medical Care?

Calendar and Seasons in Mexico

Americans and Canadians have very different motivations for traveling to Mexico for medical treatment.

Most Americans seek medical options in Mexico for economic reasons. Typically the cost of the procedure they need or want is beyond their means in the US. Most often this is because they are uninsured, under-insured (deductibles and co-pays would leave them broke) or the procedure they are seeking is not covered at all. Whatever their situation, it boils down to economics.

For Canadians it is a different matter. The more important consideration is time rather than money. While most healthcare costs for necessary treatment are actually paid by the various provincial governments, the amount of “wait time” can be considerable: months, not days.

The amount of time you must wait varies based on where you live and the service or procedure you need. Needless to say, when you are the one confined to a wheelchair awaiting hip-replacement surgery for example, there may be a sense that you are losing precious time, a chunk of your life you will never get back. Pain and disability are poor trade-offs for the economic benefit of government provided care.

Furthermore, there may be multiple “wait times” for those procedures in high demand: a wait of weeks to see a specialist, another lengthy wait for diagnostic tests, another wait of months, perhaps as much as year or more from start to finish for an essential surgery, and so on.

Canadians understandably obsess about waiting. In fact there is a 98-page document entitled “Waiting Your Turn” that gives approximate wait times to see a specialist or to schedule a procedure based on where one lives. A recent survey of Canadian doctors by the Fraser Institute reveals that, “wait times in Canada are longer than what physicians consider to be clinically reasonable,” so even doctors feel the wait times are detrimental for their patients.

Waiting is the reason many Canadians who have the resources to pay for the treatment they need simply don’t wait. In fact, approximately 40% of the visitors who come to Mexico for medical care are Canadians who have decided that life is too short to be disabled by the lack of a needed surgery. Why suffer pain and physical limitation when excellent, affordable care—including the specialists, diagnostics and surgery—is available immediately in Mexico? Why wait if you don’t have to?

Monica Rix Paxson is an expert in the field of Mexico healthcare. She is author of the English Speaker’s Guide to Medical Care in Mexico, and co-author of The English Speaker’s Guide to Doctors & Hospitals in MexicoeBooks available for immediate downloadShe resides full-time in Mexico.


  1. Stéphan says

    Hi there,

    Very interesting article! Do you know the approximate number of Canadian patients going to Mexico?

    Have a nice day,

    • Monica Rix Paxson says

      Thank you for your kind words Stéphan. I am not aware of any attempt to count or otherwise track Canadian medical tourists who travel to Mexico. If that data exists—and it may—it would probably be in a study somewhere in Canada about how effective or not the current healthcare system is.

  2. Robert says

    When I was in Canada, the last time being 2008, I asked for an appointment with my specialist and was told I could not see him for six months. Did I wait, no I returned to Mexico.

    I just had an operation in Mexico, which if I returned to Canada I likely would have waited for 2 years to have it performed. And if I had gone that route on the day of my surgery, I could well have been bumped.

    A friend was told she would have to wait 1.5 years to have her gall bladder removed. She came and had it done in a private clinic, within two weeks of seeing the doctor.

    If the Canadian government and our medical system ever wants to become #5, once again in the world, instead of being #26, they firstly have to get rid of all the back office paper pushers who such the vast majority of our taxes paid into the system. So, more $$$$ are available for front line nursing and doctors and operating theatres. And get real about dealing with the wait times. If Canada made arrangements with many of the world class hospitals in Mexico, Canadians could come here get the treatments they need and the costs billed to Canada by the hospitals would be significantly less that the costs in Canada and most importantly our citizens would not have their health compromised while waiting for treatment. Some of the best doctors in the world in their fields are here in Mexico.

    • Monica Rix Paxson says

      Thanks for sharing your story Robert. I can’t imagine waiting for 1.5 years for gallbladder surgery, or a couple of years to see a specialist. I think you made my point very well: there’s more to life than money.

      Yes, Mexico offers a great option, and perhaps some day the US and Canadian governments will catch on. But meanwhile, many of us can take advantage of the affordable quality care available in Mexico.

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