In a story published by the CBC yesterday, federal Minister of Health, the Hon. Dr. Jane Philpott, was quoted as follows:
Health Minister Jane Philpott says the government got involved in the case because “it’s fundamentally important to the health-care system in the entire country, not just in British Columbia, that we make sure that medically necessary services are universally insured and there are no barriers to access to those services.”
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“Anything like a user fee is a barrier to people being able to receive medically necessary care and there is excellent evidence that is not the appropriate health policy,” Philpott said Friday at the Liberal caucus retreat in Saguenay, Que.
“It goes completely against the principles of the Canada Health Act, which included accessibility and universality and we’re committed to upholding those.”
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“The Government of Canada has involved itself in this case because many provisions of the B.C. legislation mirror those of the Canada Health Act, making this case of significant importance not only to British Columbians, but to all Canadians.”
Today, Canadian Constitution Foundation Executive Director, Howard Anglin, responded:
“From her quote in yesterday’s CBC story, it appears Minister Philpott has not been accurately briefed about the constitutional challenge brought by the Cambie Clinic and four patient plaintiffs, which begins next Tuesday, September 6, in Vancouver, and which the Canadian Constitution Foundation has been supporting for several years.
“Contrary to Minister Philpott’s puzzling statement, this constitutional challenge does not implicate the Canada Health Act. It challenges two provisions of BC’s Medicare Protection Act: one that prohibits surgeons from working in both the public and private healthcare systems, and another that prohibits private insurance covering government-insured, medically-necessary services. Together, these prohibitions effectively preclude access to private treatment in British Columbia for most residents, including those suffering on long wait lists for treatment. Crucially, neither restriction is required by the Canada Health Act, and neither has anything to do with imposing user fees or other barriers to access in the public healthcare system, as Minister Philpott implies.
“Nothing the plaintiffs in this case are asking for would undermine or effect the principle of universal insurance within a public healthcare system. In fact, the two changes the plaintiffs seek are already the law in some other Canadian provinces. Even assuming it is true that ‘many provisions of the B.C. legislation mirror those of the Canada Health Act,’ as Minister Philpott claims, those provisions are not at issue in this case.
“What the plaintiffs in this case are asking for is the application of the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in the 2005 case of Chaoulli v. Quebec that, if a provincial government does not provide timely medical services to its residents through the public healthcare system, then it cannot legally prohibit patients suffering on long waiting lists from accessing private healthcare within the province. These plaintiffs, whose constitutional rights have already been violated while they suffered on BC’s long waiting lists, deserve better than misinformation and scare tactics from the federal Minister of Health.”