The Canadian province of British Columbia prides itself on providing free healthcare to all of its residents. However, this generosity may soon become its downfall thanks to an influx of unpaid medical bills, the Vancouver Sun reports.
These debts negatively affect taxpayers, who have been urging the government to find debtors and enact stricter payment policies. Healthcare costs for those without a Canadian medical services plan - most of whom are transplanted Americans - reached $24.3 million during the last fiscal year. That's up from $20.5 million in 2010 and $19.8 million in 2009. "B.C. is not in the habit of providing free health care for the rest of the world," former health minister George Abbott told the media outlet. "We have lots of demands for medical services by B.C. citizens, let alone serving the rest of the world." Americans likely represent the largest number of outstanding bills, New Democratic Party health critic Mike Farnworth notes. He suggests that B.C. receive additional help from collections on top of its current requirement of upfront payment. B.C.'s commitment to take all comers has resulted in increased wait times at its hospitals, the news source notes in a separate article. Specifically, just 50 percent of surgery patients had their operations within 5.4 weeks, while 90 percent waited up to six months.