I am writing about the soon-to-be concluded three-year trial in B.C. Supreme Court of Dr. Brian Day’s Constitutional challenge to parts of B.C.’s Medicare Protection Act. This trial was expected to conclude Dec. 4, but the judge became sick and had to adjourn the case. It is now predicted to resume and conclude in January.
Dr. Day wants to remove the prohibition against doctors billing both the government and patients directly for services, as well as the ban on private insurance covering services already paid by MSP. These laws ensure that access to healthcare is based on medical need rather than ability to pay. He argues that these bans infringe on the right of individual patients to pay for private care, thereby jumping the queue in the public system.
Some people may think that diverting patients with private insurance to a second tier of care in Canada’s Medicare system would decrease wait times for the great majority of patients who remain in the public stream, but this is not realistic. Private healthcare, financed by private insurance, pays healthcare workers more than Medicare does for treating less complex patients. Many of us would like to be paid more for easier work; so do some healthcare providers. Thus the private tier robs the public system of highly trained workers; it is this scarcity that is already causing some long wait times.
Now is the time for a mass uprising of support for Canada’s most cherished public institution, Medicare. Talk to your family, neighbors and friends; write letters to politicians and newspapers. Yes, we need to improve our public healthcare system, but privatizing is not the answer.
Canada’s Medicare system is based on need, not ability to pay. Let’s keep it that way.