“When two-tier health care has been permitted, the choice is expensive treatment in private for-profit clinics that most Canadians can’t afford or longer waiting times in the public system.” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (25 Oct. 2017) — A court case in Vancouver could leave Canada with two-tier health care. If that happens, the majority of Canadians could face longer waits for medical treatment, as wealthy individuals buy their way to the front of the line.
Universal Health Care on Trial, a new publication from the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) looks at the history of a legal challenge to Medicare that is before the British Columbia Supreme Court, the reasons the case is taking so long, and what the case means for Canadians. The report also looks at some of the problems with private, for-profit health care.
“When two-tier health care has been permitted, the choice is expensive treatment in private, for-profit clinics that most Canadians can’t afford or longer waiting times in the public system. Those are the “choices” those behind the legal challenge to Medicare are trying to force on Canadians,” said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
Legal challenge to Medicare came after audit of private, for-profit clinics announced
The legal challenge to Medicare was launched 4 months after the Medical Services Commission (MSC) sent a notice of audit to 2 private for-profit clinics, the Cambie Surgery Centre and the Specialist Referral Clinic. Even though the doctor running the clinics, Brian Day, claimed he had nothing to hide, he launched a series of legal manoeuvers to prevent the audit from taking place.
When the audit finally took place, the auditors were able to look at records from only 3 months and were still denied access to “financial statements, ledgers, and contractual arrangements with physicians.”
But for those records from just 3 months the auditors found almost $500,000 in illegal billings and $66,734 in overlapping claims. One can only imagine what the auditors would have found if a full audit had taken place.
Fees charged by for-profit clinics unaffordable
There are already some services where long waiting times in the public system mean people feel forced to turn to private for-profit clinics. A recent investigation found that the fees charged by those clinics were so high that for many patients they were unaffordable. To pay the fees patients were forced to cut back on groceries and other necessities.
Private for-profit health care increases waiting times
While proponents of private for-profit health care claim it will shorten waiting times in the public system, the reverse is true. An increase in private, for-profit health care has been repeatedly linked to longer waiting times in the public system.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. When the wealthy can buy their way to the front of the line, there are fewer voices calling for the public system to be adequately funded. And when physicians can make more from private patients than patients in the public system, they have a financial incentive to avoid reducing waiting times in the public system.
NUPGE and its Components helping defend Medicare
Across Canada, NUPGE and its Components are helping defend Medicare. That includes assisting the B.C. Health Coalition’s work as an intervener in the case.
“We will continue to support the efforts to defend medicare for as long as necessary,” said Brown. “We will also continue our efforts to strengthen the public system by fighting for adequate health care funding and for measures to make better use of existing resources.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE