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British Columbia Reaffirms Canadian Single Payer

Summary: Canada’s “Medicare” financing system is a leading example for the US of what single payer can accomplish. Yet there are recurring challenges to the law by a few physicians eager to privatize medical care payment. Last month, the BC Court of Appeals dismissed the latest legal challenge, thereby affirming the public financing system and its commitment to quality universal coverage.

Statement from the Minister of Health on the British Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision in the Cambie Surgeries case
Government of Canada
July 15, 2022
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos

The British Columbia (BC) Court of Appeal today released its decision, upholding the ruling of the Supreme Court of BC in Cambie Surgeries Corporation et al. v. British Columbia (Attorney General) which dismissed the constitutional challenge to provisions of BC’s Medicare Protection Act. These specific provisions prohibit patient charges for insured services and the purchase of private insurance to cover these services, as well as dual practice, which occurs when physicians work within the publicly funded health care system and privately, at the same time.

While the Canada Health Act (CHA) was not under direct challenge in this case, the federal government joined the proceedings as a party to support BC in its defence of its legislation, a mirror of the fundamental principles of the CHA, which values equity and fairness over profit and preferential access to required care.

This decision validates our belief that any Canadian who requires medically necessary care should be able to receive it based on medical need and not on the ability or willingness to pay. Patient charges — whether they take the form of charges at the point of service or payment for private insurance — undermine equity.

The Government of Canada will continue to defend universally accessible health care for all Canadians.

Comment by: Don McCanne

The Canadian courts in British Columbia have once again rejected the efforts of Dr. Brian Day and his colleagues to privatize their publicly financed health care system, reaffirming the principles of the Canada Health Act that every Canadian who requires health care should receive it based on medical need rather than on the ability or willingness to pay.

Not only has the basic principle of equity been reaffirmed, “The Court has upheld BC Supreme Court Justice Steeves’ conclusions that the evidence at trial showed that duplicative private health care would increase wait times as well as his conclusions about the harm this would cause to vulnerable people who depend upon the public system.

It is interesting that when we tout the advantages of a single payer system as they have in Canada, the most vocal opposition comes in the form of complaints about their prolonged wait times. Yet their court has concluded that if they had a fragmented public and private system such as ours, their wait times would be further increased, not to mention the harm done to their more vulnerable citizens.

But then we don’t really need the Canadian courts to tell us how to fix our system.  All we need is a sense of health care justice. That we can find in the single payer model.

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