In September 2016, the BC Supreme Court will begin to hear Cambie Surgeries Corporation et al v. Medical Services Commission et al. The lawsuit challenges the rules that ensure Canadians' access to health care is based on need, not how much we can afford to pay.
The trial is expected to last six months.
Cambie Surgeries Corporation CEO Brian Day launched the lawsuit after he learned his clinics were going to be audited by the BC Government. The audit was triggered by dozens of patients who complained that they’d been illegally overbilled at Cambie's clinics.
An audit later revealed that Day’s clinics had overcharged patients by almost half a million dollars in just 30 days. The audit also found $66,000 in overlapping claims – evidence that the clinics were double-dipping. A second audit report is pending.
Instead of paying back the money his clinics illegally overbilled, Brian Day marshalled a group of private, for-profit clinics to file a lawsuit against BC's health care laws and attempted to have the audit temporarily or permanently quashed.
What is at stake?
Right now in Canada, everyone is covered by public insurance and we can get basic treatment and care no matter how much money we have. That means that under our current laws, doctors and private insurance companies don't get to decide who gets care and who doesn't based on our income.
The goal of the lawsuit is to change these rules to:
- Let doctors bill patients whatever price they want for all health care services.
- Let private insurance companies sell insurance for publicly covered services. In other words, let private insurance companies offer - and deny - coverage for basic care like visits to the doctor or the emergency room, or cancer treatment.
The BC Government is the Defendant in the case (the Medical Services Commission of B.C., the Minister of Health Services of B.C., and the Attorney General of B.C.). One of their main arguments in the case is that evidence from around the world shows striking down the challenged laws would create a health care system where medical care is provided preferentially to those who can pay for it, while waitlists grow longer for the vast majority of the population.
Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the BC Health Coalition, two patients and two doctors, are an intervenor group in this case. We represent the vast majority of people in Canada who believe our ability to get health care should be based on need, not ability to pay.
We are advocating for real action on wait times so that all Canadians get timely access to care - not just those that can afford to pay the most.
This lawsuit could fundamentally change Canadians' ability to get health care. The laws Brian Day is challenging are the bedrock of Canadian public health care. If the Charter challenge succeeds, many Canadians will not be able to afford health care and we will have to wait longer for treatment.
The case will almost certainly advance to the Supreme Court of Canada. The outcome will impact all provinces and territories because the rules the plaintiffs seek to strike down are central to the Canada Health Act and every provincial health care insurance plan.