The so-called “Alberta Chaoulli” challenge to single-tier health care has been defeated in the courts.
The Ultra-Conservative Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom (JCCF) had sponsored two cases in that province that suggested Canada’s single tier health system represented a monopoly that deprived the plaintives of life, liberty and security of the person.
The two cases both involved Albertans who paid for treatment in the United States rather than wait for timely care in their home province.
In the first case involving a Calgary businessman, the issue became not one of delay but whether doctors felt the treatment he sought was an option for treating his back pain.
The second case involving Alberta dentist Dr. Darcy Allen failed to offer any proof that more timely care would have been accessible had two-tier private insurance been available.
Dr. Danielle Martin has practically catalogued the various attacks on Canada’s Medicare system over the last two decades. The Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare says that while the arguments continually “shift,” the prescription from the right is always the same – two tier health care and privatization is the answer no matter the question.
She says this shift is part of an ongoing attack that has never resonated with Canadian values, but shows signs of making inroads with Canadian politicians.
At first it was the argument that the rich should have the right to use their money how they see fit and buy their way to the front of the line. Clearly Canadians saw the unfairness and lack of equity in that argument. Then the privateers argued the public system was broken, until the 2004 federal-provincial accord brought down wait times across Canada. Then the story became an aging population would break the bank, until health care economists noted aging only accounted for less than one per cent of health care cost increases, well within the normal capacity of economic growth. Now the latest argument is that health care is unsustainable and about to consume provincial budgets.
Martin tells a story that many progressive health care advocates have been using recently. A family of four sends a child away to university in another province. The remaining child is told they are no longer sustainable as a result. The parents argue that the child used to eat one-fourth of the family food. With the other child gone, now they are consuming one-third of the dinners. When someone argues health care is taking money away from other services, this is essentially what they are arguing. Health care is not unsustainable – tax cuts are.
Some days it just feels like whack-a-mole.
It’s another city, another privileged individual, and another plea for two-tier medicine.
Michel Bilodeau, described by the Ottawa Citizen as the dean of Ottawa’s hospital chiefs, says he supports the right of Canadians to buy private medical insurance to pay for health services covered under Medicare.
Bilodeau was recently enticed out of retirement from his $373,000/year job at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. He is serving as interim chief at Bruyere Continuing Care after the former CEO abruptly resigned.
Bilodeau says we have to stop considering the current system as dogma and look at what works and what doesn’t.
Advocates for two-tier health care fail to acknowledge that a second tier comes with a significant cost to the first.
Waits for colonoscopies in Montreal are averaging between two to three years in the public system for patients considered to be at average risk.
The city’s Royal Victoria Hospital has stopped accepting new patients for colonoscopies – at least until the backlog can be resolved.
One family physician has contacted the Montreal Gazette to suggest the long waits are all about forcing patients into private clinics, especially when the gastroenterologists are working both the private and public side of the system.
In Quebec patients are being told to wait two years for public care or pay $10,000 to have their surgery within two weeks with the same specialist.
Many specialists in Quebec work both sides of the street, with one foot in the public system, another in the private.
Are specialists deliberately dragging their heels on public appointments to pad their private practice?
Quebec’s Health Minister says the practice of inflating waits in the public system to push patients into the private system is untenable and has asked the College of Physicians to investigate.
The Montreal Gazette reported a year ago that such practices were taking place. They documented the case of a patient at Charles LeMoyne Hospital who couldn’t get an appointment with a specialist for two years, but could walk across the street and get an appointment with the same physician within two weeks.