March to defend Medicare set for August 29

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Dr. Brian Day

By Mary Boyd (guest opinion)

There is a disturbing development in Health Care that has the potential to affect Islanders and all Canadians. On Sept. 7, British Columbia’s top court will begin hearing a case that may set a legal precedent for two-tier health care in Canada. The B.C. trial will test whether laws restricting extra billing and patient access to private health care violate Canadians’ Charter rights to “life, liberty and security of the person.”

Interveners describe this case as the “biggest threat to Medicare in this generation,” and say it is likely headed to the Supreme Court. The plaintiff is Dr. Brian Day, co-owner of the for-profit-Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver. Day is the former president of the Canadian Medical Association. B.C. provincial auditors found that Day extra billed patients in 200 cases. Over a period of 30 days, his unlawful actions earned him the sum of $491,654 extra income. That’s in one month alone. In one case a Cambie patient was billed $7,215.00 for services that only cost $1,288.04 in the B.C. Health system. Auditors also found over $66,000 in overlapping claims evidence that suggests double dipping for the same services.

The $491,654 that Dr. Day unlawfully billed patients would purchase: 12,783 hours of nursing coverage; 2,962 ER visits; 3,954 abdominal ct scans; 15,860 visits to a family doctor. These figures illustrate that two-tier health care is very financially irresponsible.

Dr. Day launched a case against the B.C. government in January 2009, the same year he was audited by provincial auditors. He argued that provincial and federal laws that prohibit doctors from providing and patients from purchasing medically necessary services outside the public system is ‘medical enslavement.’ Day bases his case on a 2005 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in a case launched in Quebec by Jacques Chaoulli and George Zeliotis. The decision states that Quebec residents have the right to purchase private health insurance in the face of long wait times. That decision is binding only to Quebec but Dr. Day wants to extend it to all of Canada.

The fact that Day can gross almost a half million dollars in a month is evidence that for-profit costs everyone more. In the U.S.A., an average employer-based family policy cost $16,351 in 2013, an increase of 131 percent over the last 10 years. Furthermore, two-tier health care systems don’t decrease government spending on health care. Since Germany introduced a two-tier model of health care spending it accumulated from $10 billion - $17 billion in annual deficits. Governments of the Netherlands, U.S.A. and Switzerland all spend more on health care since they introduced a two-tier health care system.

You can help to defend Medicare by joining Health Coalition March from Trinity United Church, Charlottetown, to the Convention Centre, on August 29. We assemble at 11:30 am and begin the March at 12 pm. We are asking the premiers and territorial leaders to stand up for Medicare.

- Mary Boyd, Charlottetown, is a member of the P.E.I. Health Coalition

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, Profit-Cambie Surgery Centre, Canadian Medical Association B.C. Health Trinity United Church Convention Centre P.E.I. Health Coalition

Geographic location: Canada, British Columbia, Quebec Vancouver Charlottetown Germany Netherlands Switzerland

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