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Medicare is being put on trial, which side are you on?

Medicare in Canada is being put on trial. Dr Brian Day, a for-profit clinic owner, has launched a lawsuit against the B.C. Ministry of Health which is ongoing at the province’s Supreme Court. While this case is provincial, the ruling will have national implications for Canada’s universal, public health care system.

Dr. Profit, as he is known, is using Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to argue that if you have money, you should have the right to buy your way to the front of the line. The cornerstone of medicare is the principle that health care should be provided according to a patient’s needs and not ability to pay. We believe preferential treatment that puts profits over people has no place in Canada.

This case isn’t about improving health care it’s about money and greed. Dr. Profit is using misinformation and the courts to force in a two-tier, U.S.-style system.

Here are six things you need to know about what this case is really about.

1. Dr. Profit is supported in court by corporate interests and an extreme right wing lobby group with close ties to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and its government.  This Executive director of this group is Harper’s former Deputy Chief of Staff.  Day’s legal team has also called forward witnesses from the right wing Fraser Institute during the court proceedings so far.

2. While there are real challenges in our universal public health care system, we need to modernize it, not privatize it. What Dr. Profit wants is against the Canada Health Act and its principles of universality and equity. The costly queue jumping he is advocating doesn’t benefit every day Canadians. It would allow some people to pay for their health care while taking away doctors from the public system.

3. Dr. Profit says people – and doctors – should have a choice. Doctors already have the option to opt out of the public system. What Dr. Profit actually wants is to be able charge an unlimited  amount for his services and then also charge the government (and taxpayers) for it. This is what the case is really about.

4. Dr Profit’s clinics – the private Cambie Surgery Centre and the Specialist Referral Clinic – were caught extra and double-billing. A 2012 audit conducted by the B.C. government found that in just one month, Dr. Day’s clinic had illegally billed patients close to $500,000, including $66,734 in overlapping claims where Day billed both the patient and the province.

5. Evidence from around the world shows private clinics erode public health care, and increase wait times. It has been shown that wait times are highest in Canada in areas with the most privatization because these clinics poach doctors, nurses and resources from the public system.  Private clinics also “cherry pick” their patients and leave patients with more complex cases to the public system.

6. A study of more than 1,000 Workers Compensation Board patients in British Columbia showed that not only is private health care more expensive, it does not improve return to work times. (Patients in the public system did marginally better, but for a fraction of the cost.)

The Council of Canadians is part of a broad coalition of groups supporting public health care and working to stop Dr. Day and his plan to. bring in US style two-tiered health care.

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