Judge rules against private care for patients as four-year B.C. trial challenging universal health system end

Dr. Brian Day, CEO of Cambie Surgeries Corp., argued wait times in the public system are too long.PHOTO BY DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS/FILE

Sep 11, 2020 [Excerpts] 
Dr. Brian Day had argued patients have a constitutional right to pay for private care when wait times in the public system are too long 

Justice John Steeves of the Supreme Court of British Columbia said in a written ruling after a four-year trial that Day and other plaintiffs failed to show patients’ rights are being infringed by the [Medicare Protection] act, adding its focus is on equitable access, not ability to pay.

“Equal or identical care between patients is not part of the purpose of the (Medicare Protection Act) and nor is it achievable,” Steeves said, adding those who are healthier and wealthier would benefit most from a parallel health-care system.
Lawyers also failed to provide enough evidence that patients’ constitutional rights are being violated, he said. 

Duplicative private health care “would not decrease wait times in the public system and there is expert evidence that wait times would actually increase,” he said. “This would cause further inequitable access to timely care.”

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix. PHOTO BY CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS/FILE

In April 2018, Dix announced that starting in October of that year, doctors who bill patients extra for services covered by the Medical Services Plan could face initial fines of $10,000 as part of amendments to the Medicare Protection Act that had not been enforced for 15 years.

The new punishments were necessary because Ottawa had withheld $16 million in health transfer payments over extra billing by private clinics, Dix said.

Private clinics are not illegal, but billing for medically necessary services is a violation of the Canada Health Act.

Dix said private clinics have played a small role when they are contracted to do day surgeries and last year performed about 12,000 procedures out of 300,000 done in the public system.
“The issue here is extra billing and undermining the basis of public health care,” he said.

Dr. Rupinder Brar, spokeswoman for Doctors for Medicare, an interveners at trial, said Day’s position involved having doctors bill for care in both the public and private systems where they could charge more and therefore prioritize those patients.

“It sets up perverse incentives for doctors,” she said, noting physicians are free to opt out of the public system if they choose to practise in private clinics, but not do both.

“This court case was about me being a doctor and charging patients whatever I want, so those people who can afford it will see me and I’ll see them first,” Brar said.

To read the full article, click on: Judge rules against private care for patients as four-year B.C. trial challenging universal health system ends