Thursday, June 09, 2005

One Small Step for Patients – A Giant Leap for Health Care Reform

OTTAWA: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) today responded favourably to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that legal restrictions on private health care services and insurance violate the Quebec charter of human rights and freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutional challenge brought by Dr. Jacques Chaoulli to laws forbidding Quebec residents from purchasing a full range of private medical services and private medical insurance.

“This decision confirms that there is something fundamentally wrong with Canada’s status quo on health care,” stated CTF federal director John Williamson. “Although today’s ruling directly applies only to Quebec, it will have ramifications for the rest of the country. It takes a stand against a state health care monopoly that denies patients adequate and timely care.”

In its judgment, the Supreme Court wrote: “It cannot be concluded from the evidence concerning the Quebec plan or the plans of the other provinces of Canada, or from the evolution of the systems of various OECD countries that an absolute prohibition on private insurance is necessary to protect the integrity of the public plan.” (page 5) “While the government has the power to decide what measures to adopt, it cannot choose to do nothing in the face of a violation of Quebeckers’ right to security.” (p. 5) “The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.” (p. 6) “It does not appear that private participation leads to the eventual demise of public health care.” (p. 7)

“The court has recognized that a system which forces patients to suffer and die on waiting lists does, indeed, violate a person’s right,” continued Williamson. “This decision is a message to our politicians, both federal and provincial, that the status quo needs to change. Ordinary Quebeckers have now acquired the right to spend their own money on the health care services of their choice. That right should be extended to all Canadians from coast to coast.”

“Even before this decision was issued, nothing prevented Parliament from amending the Canada Health Act to allow more choice, quality, competition and accountability. But today’s decision will help Canada follow the example of other countries, such as France, Sweden, and Germany, which have better health care because they allow a parallel private system to co-exist alongside the public system,” concluded Williamson.

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