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REPORT: Private Clinics & the Threat to Public Medicare in Canada: Results of Surveys with Private Clinics and Patients

Posted: June 10, 2017

From the autumn of 2016 to the spring of 2017, researchers at the Ontario Health Coalition called all the private clinics we could reach across Canada. Included in the survey are private surgical clinics including cataract surgery clinics, MRI/CT, colonoscopy/endoscopy clinics and “boutique” physician clinics. In total, we surveyed a sample of 136 private clinics in 9 provinces. From our interviews, we found 88 clinics in six provinces that are charging patients extra user-fees and selling medically necessary services. In addition, we surveyed 400 individual patients about their experiences with user-fees. In response, 250 patients detailed extra charges that they faced when trying to access needed medical care in private clinics. Patients described these medical fees as “a shock” and “a hardship”. Such fees are unlawful under the Canada Health Act, which forbids extra-billing of patients and requires that all Canadians receive medical care based on need. The results of the surveys are detailed in a new report “Private Clinics and the Threat to Public Medicare”.

The bottom line?  In the majority of provinces, patients are now faced with an array of charges amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars when they go to private clinics for diagnosis or treatment. Private clinics are threatening public medicare in Canada and the laws that protect patients are not being enforced. Health Coalitions across the country are calling on our governments to take action to safeguard single-tier public health care for all Canadians.

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