For immediate release
(Unceded Coast Salish Territories - Vancouver, BC) On Monday, November 18th, final arguments began in the Charter challenge that put public health care on trial.
The legal attack launched by one of the largest for-profit clinics in Canada seeks to invalidate key protections in the BC Medicare Protection Act which prohibit physician extra billing and duplicate private insurance for medically necessary procedures.This case is the most serious threat that the public health care system has ever faced. It seeks to erase from our laws the fundamental concept of care based on need, not ability to pay.
“We joined this court case because we believe in defending a public health care system where everyone is covered, everyone is treated equally, and no one goes broke paying for their care,” said Edith MacHattie, a representative of the Coalition Intervenors, which includes the BC Health Coalition and Canadian Doctors for Medicare.
“Brian Day and his lawyers have argued that it's okay to profit off people's illnesses. We disagree. All that this case has proven is that a private for-profit system would improve access for the healthiest and wealthiest while creating longer wait times for everybody else. Privatized for-profit health care means that you'll pay more, get less and be worse off.“ continued MacHattie to a group of community members gathered outside the courthouse
Contrary to CEO Day's claims, this case is not about protecting patients' rights or solving the issue of wait times. Cambie Surgeries has not proven that the laws protecting public health care cause lengthy wait times or harm patients’ access to care. Instead, the evidence has shown that public solutions are the best cure for the problem of wait times, and allowing a private tier of health care would worsen wait times for all but the wealthy, and drain resources from the public system.
In Australia, private insurance was encouraged with the goal of reducing wait times, but in fact what occurred is that wait times in the public sector did not improve; in areas where private health care was most used, wait times in the public system went up. [Defendant’s Closing Submissions, p. 375-376]
Expansion of private insurance and care would disproportionately impact patients who are not considered “profitable” in the private system. Glyn Townsend, standing in front of a banner that read “Save Our Medicare”, spoke about the negative impact of a two-tier healthcare system on those with complex health issues and chronic illnesses.
Glyn, who has required health care to monitor and treat his HIV for almost 30 years - has been able to access care because Canada’s health care is publicly funded. If Glyn had been forced to pay for his necessary hospital visits, which have included admission for chicken pox and one for severe shingles, he might have been forced to choose between his health and bankruptcy.
The final arguments of the controversial case will be heard over the next 3 weeks.
Campaigner, BC Health Coalition