We risk losing our public health care system in 2016.
Right now, there's a legal challenge in motion that could erase Canadian Medicare as we know it – resulting in a two-tier, US-style health care system.
Dr. Brian Day, owner of Vancouver's for-profit Cambie Surgery Centre and the leading proponent of privatized health care, launched a constitutional challenge in 2009 that is going to court in September 2016. This challenge aims to break Medicare in Canada by striking down provincial health legislation that limits the for-profit delivery of medically necessary services, claiming that these rules violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Parties in the case, including the BC government, are calling this the most significant constitutional challenge in Canadian history. Although this case is being heard in British Columbia, experts agree that the case will be appealed and end up in the Supreme Court of Canada – that's why it's important to everyone in Canada.
If Dr. Day wins, he'll open the floodgates to a US-style system that relies on private insurance, and allows providers to set any price on care that the market will allow.
For Canadian families, this means that they will have to purchase private health care insurance for essential and emergency care like they do in the United States – if they can afford it.
In the US, private health insurance through employers costs $16,000 for an average family of four, with employees paying over $4,000 for family insurance, with a $2,000 deductible.
In Canada, the actual cost of our public system insuring a family of four is half of that - $8,000, paid through our taxes. The administration of our Medicare system is just 1.3% of health care costs – while in the US, administration eats up 31% of health care spending. And costs in the US are out of control, with reports of just a single stitch costing $500!
Businesses that set up shop in Canada won't have to bear these expensive costs for employee health insurance, and they'll have healthier workers.
Clearly, there's a lot at stake. That's why the BC Health Coalition and Canadian Doctors for Medicare are interveners in this case.
This means that we are able to fight for Medicare in court by participating directly in the case to make sure public health care is protected. As interveners, we are able to represent the majority of Canadians and health professionals who believe in the value of our Medicare system.
The BC Supreme Court level is the pro-Medicare side's chance to influence the outcome of this case. Our intervener group has secured a strong legal team including leading constitutional and health litigators Steven Shrybman and Joe Arvay. All advise that our participation at the BC Supreme Court level is essential because the evidence and facts provided at the trial stage in B.C. will be the record upon which a Supreme Court of Canada decision will be made.
We came perilously close to losing our public health care system with a similar case in Quebec in 2005 because there wasn't enough evidence at the provincial level to support Medicare – we can't afford to make that mistake in BC.
The direction we have to go is clear. Getting there is a challenge. We need to make sure all Canadians know about this critical challenge and what they can do to support our public health care system.
To that end, we will be working on a campaign to bring attention to the case between now and the trial date in September so that everyone in Canada knows what's at stake. Although judges will decide the case, we know that the last court case about our health care system was heavily influenced by public opinion.
So help make it loud and clear!