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Supreme Court of Canada upholds B.C.’s Medicare Protection Act in landmark decision protecting public health care

Thursday, April 6, 2023 — Today, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Cambie Surgeries Corporation’s (CSC) attempt to overturn previous decisions made by BC’s courts that upheld the BC Medicare Protection Act. This decision marks the end of the corporation’s lengthy legal battle to overturn key provisions in the BC Medicare Protection Act that ensure equitable access to medically necessary services.

BCs’ Act at the centre of this case aims to preserve a publicly-funded health care system where access to necessary medical care is based on patients’ needs and not their ability to pay. The appellants have been unsuccessful once again in their attempts to strike down provisions in the Act that prohibit doctors from extra billing patients (whether out-of-pocket or through private duplicative insurance that covers what’s already covered under the provincial plan), and from working in “dual practice” to prevent them from giving preferential access to patients who can afford to pay privately.

“As a group of patients, doctors and health care advocates, we joined this court case more than a decade ago because we believe in defending a public health care system premised on the understanding that care should be based on need, not the ability to pay,” said Tuesday Andrich, co-chair of the BC Health Coalition. 

“With this legal battle now behind us, we can refocus our efforts on the pressing need to invest in innovations and system reforms that will strengthen and improve our publicly-funded system — not undermine it, as the appellants sought to do.”  

In the years since CSC launched this attack on publicly-funded health care, our health care system has faced many challenges. That has been particularly true during the pandemic. But while CSC and its investors and allies have been relentless in their pursuit to dismantle the laws that uphold our public health care system in order to usher in one driven by profit, we have been equally tireless in our commitment to strengthen it.

“There is no question that our health care system and workforce are currently under immense strain, and that is precisely why we need to implement efficient, evidence-based solutions proven to reduce wait times and improve the quality of care in an equitable way,” said Dr. Melanie Bechard, Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. 

“Allowing doctors to charge patients as much as the market will bear and forcing patients to pay out-of-pocket or purchase private insurance to access care are not innovative ideas and will do more harm than good.”

In denying CSC’s application to appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada upholds two previous decisions made by the BC Supreme Court on September 10, 2020 and the BC Court of Appeal on July 15, 2022 which both found that the evidence before the court showed that a duplicative private-pay health care system would increase wait times in the public system and cause harm to all who depend on it.

Although this legal attack on our publicly-funded health care system has finally come to an end, the work to strengthen and improve our health care system is far from over. We will continue to uphold a publicly-funded health care system that is there for everyone when they need it and where no one is forced to pay for timely access to medically necessary care. 

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For media inquiries please contact:

Katie Arnup, Executive Director of Canadian Doctors for Medicare at 647-289-5205 or katie@canadiandoctorsformedicare.ca

Noal Amir, Campaigner with the BC Health Coalition at 604-349-9079 or noal@bchealthcoalition.ca

About Us:

Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the BC Health Coalition, along with two doctors and two patients, were Intervenors in all previous stages of this case. For more information on the Intervenors and the case, visit www.savemedicare.ca.  

Canadian Doctors for Medicare (CDM) provides a voice for Canadian doctors and medical trainees who want to strengthen and improve Canada’s universal publicly-funded health care system. We advocate for innovations in treatment and prevention services that are evidence-based and improve access, quality, equity and sustainability.

The BC Health Coalition (BCHC) advocates for evidence-based improvements to our public health care system, stimulates public education on health care issues, and drives positive change to our health care system through campaigns across the province.