Continuing to defend public health care – Cambie case


BC Health Coalition Update: Continuing to defend public health care

POSTED BY USMAN MUSHTAQ 49SC ON MARCH 22, 2021

We’re pleased to announce that we have been granted intervenor status by the BC Court of Appeal in the Cambie case. This continues to build on the work we’ve been engaged in for the last ten years as we successfully defended public healthcare at the BC Supreme Court.

In September 2020, the BC Supreme Court ruled against Dr. Day and Cambie Surgeries in a landmark victory for public healthcare in BC and nationally. The Court found that Day was seeking to create a two-tiered US-style healthcare system where the wealthy and healthy got the care they needed at the expense of the majority. 

Unfortunately, Day and his supporters filed an appeal of the decision almost immediately proving that this challenge is not about evidence for them but about profits. Last week, the BC Court of Appeal ruled that the Save Medicare coalition (Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the BC Health Coalition, and our patient intervenors) can continue to intervene at the Appeal level. This is big news! It means we can continue to defend our public healthcare system and the landmark decision already passed by the BC Supreme Court. 

Now as we move toward the next steps in the Appeal process, let’s revisit the September 2020 decision and why the previous verdict was a huge win for public healthcare.

What the plaintiffs wanted

Dr. Day, Cambie Surgeries, and their supporters wanted the court to overturn three key provisions of B.C.’s Medicare Protection Act (MPA) that protect fair access to care for all patients. Instead they wanted the court to allow:

  1. Extra billing and user fees – Doctors would be allowed to charge patients more than the public plan pays them now.
  2. Private duplicate insurance – Doctors would be allowed to bill private insurers for patients who want faster access to hospital and physician care
  3. Dual practice – Doctors enrolled in the public plan could choose whether to bill (1) only the public plan; (2) only the patient (or private insurer); or (3) both the public plan and the patient (or private insurer), for any insured service. Doctors would have a financial incentive to give preferential access to patients who had private insurance or who could afford to pay out-of-pocket.

Source: “Explainer: Canadian Medicare on Trial” by Karen Palmer, with Quoi Media Group. 

Top 5 Key Findings in the Cambie Verdict

The BC Supreme Court ruled against Dr. Day and his supporters noting that:

  1. An expansion of private healthcare would not reduce waits in the public system: in fact it could make them worse.
  2. Private pay healthcare (like the type of healthcare Day is seeking to expand) undermines equitable access to care.
  3. Urgent and emergent care is currently provided in a timely manner. Where waitlists exist, there are evidence-based ways to reduce wait times through innovations within the publicly-funded healthcare system.
  4. Entrenching private pay healthcare would benefit mainly the wealthy and healthy, while harming the rest of the population by undermining the public healthcare system.
  5. Evidence from around the world showed that expanding privately financed healthcare would make our healthcare system less sustainable overall, so it doesn’t make sense from a health policy or fiscal perspective.

    For more information on the key findings above and quotes from the decision itself, please download our Top 5 Key Findings pdf. In the meantime, stay tuned for more updates from us as we continue to fight this legal challenge at this new stage.