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Authorizing duplicate health insurance would help reduce wait times

Montreal, January 19, 2023 – Allowing insurers to offer so-called duplicate health insurance policies to their Quebec clients would help reduce wait times, according to a new study published by the Montreal Economic Institute this morning.

“Authorizing duplicate health insurance policies would help make private care more accessible to a much larger share of the population,” says Maria Lily Shaw, associate researcher at the MEI and the study’s author. “Instead of being accessible only to those who can afford to pay out of pocket, private care could be accessible to the middle class.”

A duplicate insurance policy allows people to be covered if they get treated in the private sector for care that is already covered by the governmental health insurance plan. Currently, six Canadian provinces—including Quebec—ban this practice.

As for Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, which in theory allow duplicate health insurance, no market has developed in those provinces. The researcher attributes this to certain regulatory requirements preventing such things as mixed practice, as well as to their small populations.

Countries like Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom allow the use of duplicate insurance in order to reduce bottlenecks in their universal systems.

The researcher looks in particular at the Australian example, where nearly 45% of the population has duplicate insurance. Notably, she cites a study published in the Australian Health Review showing that around 15% of Australian patients were redirected from the public to the private sector because of their duplicate insurance. This helps unclog the public health care system.

“It’s no secret: Our health care system isn’t cutting it, with patients languishing months, and even years, on waiting lists before receiving the treatment they need,” says Ms. Shaw. “Allowing insurers to offer duplicate health insurance would be a real blessing to the 159,000 Quebecers waiting for surgery.”

The MEI study is available here.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.

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