Nine out of 10 Canadians Want to See the Federal Government Enforce the Canada Health Act

FEB 26, 2018


Nine out of 10 Canadians Want to See the Federal Government Enforce the Canada Health Act

As the Alberta affiliate of the Canadian Health Coalition, Friends of Medicare is in the nation's capital this week to focus on provincial and national issues related to privatization and the proliferation of private clinics across the country. A new poll conducted by EKOS Polling and commissioned by the Canadian Health Coalition shows 9 out of 10 Canadians want the federal government to intervene when unlawful billing takes place.

"Across Canada people are being charged unlawfully for services that are covered by the Canada Health Act," says James Hutt, Interim National Coordinator, Policy and Advocacy for the Canadian Health Coalition. "These services range from cataract lenses to diagnostic imaging. Patients do not know what services should be covered by the public system and which they have to pay out of pocket for. They're being misled by for-profit clinics and told that they have to pay when there are public options available to them."

"Now it's time for the federal government to act," says Pauline Worsfold, RN, Chair of the Canadian Health Coalition. "It is federal jurisdiction to enforce the Canada Health Act and ensure provinces and territories are not allowing patients to be billed illegally. When they know of cases where patients are being billed, the federal government must withhold the amount of money being illegally billed from the Canada Health Transfer payments."

The Canada Health Act states extra-billing and user charges for insured health services are subject to mandatory, dollar-for-dollar deductions in Canada Health Transfers. In 2016, then Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott warned the Saskatchewan government that they had to stop allowing for-profit clinics to charge patients for diagnostic imaging. Since then no penalties have been given to Saskatchewan, and Manitoba who has followed suit has not received any warnings. The Brad Wall government suggested a deal was made during the 2017 signing of the bilateral health agreement that the federal government would turn a blind eye to violations of the Canada Health Act for 1-2 years. The federal government denied this accusation but no follow up has occurred.

Two reports were released in 2017, one by the Ontario Health Coalition and the other by Alberta's Parkland Institute, showing that private, for-profit clinics were operating in violation of the Canada Health Act across the country. The Federal Health Minister was contacted about these documented violations but to date no known action has been taken.

The Canadian Health Coalition is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to protect, strengthen and expand public health care for all.