On September 9, 2015, Justices Peter Martin, Jack Watson, and Frans Slatter unanimously rejected the appeal put forward by lawyer John Carpay on behalf of Darcy Allen that prohibition on private health insurance in Alberta infringes on Mr. Allen's Charter rights. The rejection of this appeal affirms the decision from Justice P. R. Jeffrey of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench on April 2, 2014.
"The rejection of Mr. Allen's appeal is not a rejection of access to health care, but rather recognition that allowing private insurance to determine Albertans' access to healthcare is not a solution to the problems in our public healthcare system," stated Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare.
In the decision, Justice Slatter affirms that "Canada's system of universal [healthcare] is perceived by many as the crowning achievement of Canadian social policy," and that while, "Canadians criticize the system[, it is because] they would like it to be even better than it is." Friends of Medicare is further pleased that the decision recognizes that "[healthcare] policy choices [are] not within the legitimate mandate of the courts."
"We can do better, but not through lawsuits, and not through two-tier healthcare. Mr. Carpay's constant characterization of our health system as a 'government monopoly' is American-style rhetoric, Further, allowing private insurance to stand between you and your healthcare is not only not cost effective, but most importantly, it only service to create a system of inequity in access to care," continued Azocar.
Our advocacy work has consistently shown that the prioritization of our healthcare system in the public interest by governments defeats the need for increase privatization; this is affirmed, too, in paragraph 43 of the decision: "Presumably, if more [public] resources were dedicated to [healthcare], the government would no longer be 'doing nothing [to ameliorate wait times], and there would come a point in time when the waiting lists would be 'just right'."
While we sympathize and empathize deeply with the concerns of the many Albertans who are facing difficulties accessing care, we are glad that this decision clarifies and supports the government's role in developing the necessary policy to provide access to timely and effective public healthcare.
We encourage Alberta's new government to embrace this role and appropriately address concerns around wait times and timely access to care.
The full text of the Court of Appeal decision is available here.