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BC Supreme Court showdown for private clinics

Tom Sandborn writes in The that, “A pair of legal cases coming soon to the B.C. Supreme Court may greatly change the way health care is delivered in the province and across Canada.”

“Disgruntled former patients who say the province’s for-profit clinics are regularly breaking the law on extra billing went to court last December demanding the government properly enforce the Medicare Protection Act and end the alleged extra billing by private sector clinics. Meanwhile, in January, a group of these same clinics launched a court action against some of the government players targeted in the patients’ litigation. This second action, brought by, among others, Vancouver’s Cambie Surgeries Corporation and the for-profit clinic umbrella group the Canadian Independent Medical Clinics Association, is arguing that the law that underlies the delivery of health services in B.C. is unconstitutional. They are calling on the Supreme Court of B.C. to rule that provisions of the Medicare Protection Act of 1996, which they claim ‘directly or indirectly prohibit or impede access to private health care and patient choice in primary health care,’ are in violation of sections 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights.”

“If the suit initiated by patients against the government and the clinics is successful, it will represent a setback for those in the business and medical world such as Day… A win by the clinics in their B.C. action might open the door across Canada for an expansion of for-profit clinics and private health insurance.”

“Dr. Randall White of the Canadian Doctors for Medicare, (says,) ‘If Canada opens the doors to commercial health-care delivery and insurance, we can expect NAFTA challenges that could well dismantle our publicly funded, non-profit system… The cost of commercial health care is high. Many studies have found higher costs attributable to ubiquitous elements of for-profit insurance and hospitals such as administrative activities, marketing, profit generation, and executive pay. When it comes to health care, the assertion that markets are most efficient is absolutely false. The U.S. is the most market-driven industrialized health system and also the least efficient. Canadians could expect greater cost inflation with the advent of market-driven health care.”

“The B.C. Supreme Court, when it rules on these two related cases, will be turning its attention primarily to matters of law and the Charter, not the policy concerns variously advanced by pro- and anti-privatization advocates. Nevertheless the court’s judgments are likely to have profound policy implications for Canadian doctors, patients and taxpayers.”

The full article is at