This study was conducted to determine the impact of health status on waiting time for major joint arthroplasty in a universal publicly funded health system. Data were collected prospectively from a cohort of 553 patients waiting for total hip or total knee arthroplasty. The WOMAC and SF-36 health status instruments were administered at the time the patient was placed on the waiting list. The outcome measure was length of waiting time. Multivariate analyses found increased body mass index and decreased social function as the only determinants of waiting time. This model explained only 4% of the variance in waiting time. The association between health status and waiting time for arthroplasties appears to be small. These findings suggest that major joint arthroplasty is not prioritized on the basis of burden of illness.