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Health Collation warns of privatizing health-care

Posted: June 15, 2017

By: David Gough, Postmedia Network / Wallaceburg Courier Press

Two years in the making, the Ontario Health Coalition released a report on private health-care clinics and how the OHC feels that they are a threat to Canada’s public medicare system.

Released on Monday morning, the report says that private clinics serve to bolster owners’ incomes by charging extra user-fees to patients, and as the clinics can a foothold, they are even more aggressive. The report says this undermines the patient protections of the Canadian Health Act, yet the federal and provincial governments don’t uphold the principle that health-care should be based on need not wealth.

The report calls on federal and provincial governments to recommit themselves to the Canada Health Act, stop illegal health fees for patients and impose penalties on provinces that don’t protect their residents. The report also calls for provincial governments to put a halt on the privatization of public and non-profit hospital services, increase hospital capacity and increase health funding.

The report also recommends that governments at all levels must protect public health care from international trade agreements through a general carve out for all health-care services.

Private, for-profit clinics are cutting a second tier into Canada’s public health-care system, a representative with a provincial healthcare watchdog group says.
And, in many cases, what they’re doing is illegal, said Peter Boyle, a volunteer with the Ontario Health Coalition.

“It has been trying to creep in,” said Boyle, noting that private health-care has become the norm in the United States.

“If you need money for medical care, under OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan), under the Canadian health-care system, it is totally covered whether you get it at a hospital or a private clinic,” he said.

“It’s against the law to charge (for health services).”

The OHC was in Wallaceburg on Saturday morning to bring attention to the issue of private health-care.

The stop was one of 20 in the coalition’s ‘We Can’t Bear to Lose Medicare’ tour, including a seven-foot stuffed bear designed to raise awareness to the issue.

“What they do is the private clinics are charging fees that they make people think are necessary,” Boyle said. “They don’t, in a lot of cases, tell them they’re not.”

That includes, for example, he said, charging for measuring a person’s eye for cataract surgery, or upcharging for special, unnecessary lenses.

In some cases clinics are cashing in twice for the same service – billing both the patient and province.

A court case in British Columbia is currently underway in which private clinics are challenging the laws protecting patients from user fees. Boyle said the case will likely end up in the Supreme Court of Canada and whatever the courts decide will have a major impact on health-care in Canada.

“We’re seeing private clinics spring up all over Ontario, certainly not as much perhaps as British Columbia or Saskatchewan are seeing, but it’s against the law,” said Shirley Roebuck, head of the Sarnia-Lambton Health Coalition chapter.

“It’s a violation of the Canada Health Act.”

People in Canada are generally quite proud of publicly funded health care, she said.

“They want it to succeed and I think that’s where the government should be spending some money, to ensure our public health-care system is stable and viable.”

–with files from Postmedia Network

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