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Six things you need to know about the greatest threat to medicare in a generation

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Yesterday, The Council of Canadians organized a rally outside the B.C federal courts to protest the greatest threat to Canadian public health care in a generation. As Dr. Brian Day, who is known to many as "Dr. Profit," attempts to land the knock-out punch to medicare, we were on hand to raise awareness and let the courts know we won't stand by quietly as profit triumphs over patients.

Dr. Day is supported in court by a right-wing, Calgary-based lobby group with close ties to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his government, and other corporate interests who pretend this case is about health care.  In reality, he's fighting for "the right of doctors to charge."

Earlier today, the Council of Canadians spoke to media from across Canada about the case (video interview below). Here are some highlights from those interviews and six things you need to know.

1. This case is the greatest threat to medicare in a generation. But make no mistake: this case isn't about improving health care; it's about money and greed. Dr. Day is using misinformation and the courts to recklessly force Canada into a two-tier, U.S.-style system. While a lot of people may not be aware of this case, it is not an exaggeration to say consequences of this case will have a serious impact on medicare and all Canadians should be concerned.

2. Poll after poll shows Canadians strongly support medicare and its core principle that health care should be provided based on need and not ability to pay. While there are real challenges facing our universal, public health care system, we need to modernize -- not privatize. What Dr. Profit is trying to do is flawed and is not the solution. It is against the Canada Health Act and its principles of universality and equity. The costly queue-jumping he is advocating for doesn't benefit everyday Canadians. What it does do is jeopardize the universal public health-care system everyone in Canada relies on for his and his shareholders' personal financial gain.

3. Ultimately, this case is about making money, not services and the rights for patients. Anyone who tells you this is about "choice" is missing the point. We already have the option in Canada for doctors to opt out of the public system and charge what they want in boutique clinics. What Dr. Profit wants to do is enrich himself further, by charging unlimited amounts for services and then turn around and charge government and tax payers for this. Double billing, which is illegal and unfair, is not the Canadian way. But, Dr. Profit wins the court case we will be, "paying twice for the same service -- once through our taxes and once through the nose."

 

 

4. Dr. Profit's clinics (the private Cambie Surgery Centre and the Specialist Referral Clinic) were caught breaking the law by engaging in extra and double billing practices. A 2012 audit conducted by the B.C. government found that in just one month, Dr. Day's clinic had illegally billed patients nearly half-a-million dollars including $66,734 in overlapping claims where Day billed both the patient and the province.

5. Evidence from around the world shows private clinics erode public health care and increase wait times. It has been shown that wait times are highest in Canada in areas with the most privatization because these clinics poach doctors, nurses and resources from the public system. And it is also worth noting that these clinics cherry-pick their patients, and leave the more complex cases to the public system -- if there is a complication from the surgery the patient goes to the public system to fix it.

Further, a study of over 1,000 WorkSafeBC patients in British Columbia has shown that not only is privately funded care more expensive, it did not improve return-to-work times (patients in the public system did marginally better but for a fraction of the cost).

6. Dr. Day and his public relations team are using a flawed study to support their case. They often quote a 2014 Commonwealth Fund study that compares OECD countries. In the study Canada was ranked tenth out of 11 countries in health-system performance. This ideological study compares apples to oranges and has serious methodological problems that any research methods teacher would give a failing grade. There are huge differences between national health systems (rural and remote composition, health delivery model, differing baskets of services) that preclude further valid comparison or extrapolation from this data. Many of the ratings are subjective and do not using appropriate objective measures to do an apples to apples comparison.

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