Health Care Privatizer Decoder

Health Care Privatizer Decoder

Health care announcements keep being made... but something seems fishy. With all the politicking, real intentions can be hard to parseThat's why we created this decoder. 

Watch out for these words! When the government uses them, what they’re really talking about is their plan to continue privatizing and dismantling our public health care system.


‘Activity-Based Funding’ = Fragments health services to incentivize and reward financially motivated doctors who own private clinics. A market-oriented mechanism that increases costs, encourages over-diagnosis of some procedures and under-treatment of others. Also leads to closing rural hospitals.

‘Alternative Service Delivery’ = Shifting delivery of health services from the public to the private sector. A form of privatization.

'Change of employer' = Signals contracting out, which means more privatization. Workers won’t have to lose their jobs if they’re willing to re-apply for less money and poorer benefits.

'Chartered' = Just like in education, chartered facilities are private, services are paid for with public funds.

‘Choice’ = Refers to health care services as if they were any other commodity. But private health care offers no 'choice' for the sick and the poor. Health care is a human right and access should be based on need, not one’s ability to pay.

'Contracting out' = A kind of privatization whereby publicly funded health care dollars are put towards subsidizing the profits of private companies.

‘Efficiency' = Used to distract from other considerations such as safety, quality, transparency, or accountability. Chronically prioritizing efficiency has resulted in a system that is operating perpetually at capacity, and unequipped to respond to challenges or crises. See: savings.

'Expanded access’ = Increased number of providers via the privatization, fragmentation or contracting out of parts of our health care system. Doesn’t take into account any other facets of access, such as financial barriers or other social determinants of health, both of which are
worsened under private health care.

‘Flexibility’ = Operating outside the parameters of the Canada Health Act. See: choice

'Funding' = Follow the money! Is it going towards improving our public health care system, or towards boosting the profits of private operators or contractors?

'Health care heroes' = When the folks responsible for the pay, job security and working conditions of health care workers start tossing platitudes around, they’re likely trying to distract from their real intentions and actions.

'Improving capacity' = A promise that sounds great on paper, but without commitments to staffing, is ultimately empty. Lets the government make grand announcements about new contracts and 'investements,' without actually improving access for Albertans. A hospital bed is just a bed without the health care workers to staff them!

‘Innovation’ = Commercialization of health care services in a cut-throat market. Allows medical ‘entrepreneurs’ to gain a foothold to profit from what should be a public good, with little transparency or accountability to the people. 

'Investment' = See: Funding.

‘Maintaining health spending’ = Freezing health funding despite rising costs due to inflation and population growth, meaning fewer health care dollars spent per Albertan. This amounts to a cut.

‘Modernization’ = Dismantling and corporatizing parts of our public health care, often following years of neglect, underfunding and under-resourcing. See: transformation; reform.

‘Partnership’ = Public-private ‘partnerships’ (P3s) are a parasite that raises costs and lowers quality of care. The public pays and private investors profit, with no transparency or accountability. That’s not a partnership!

‘Patient-Centered Care’ = Slogan borrowed from the drug industry. Often means ‘profit-centred care,’ catered to only the healthiest and wealthiest patients.

‘Publicly funded,’ 'Publicly insured' = Used to distract from ‘privately delivered.’ This means the government is not only allowing private health care profiteers to operate, but is also subsidizing their practices with public health care dollars. Funding is provided with no accountability or transparency, thanks to ‘corporate confidentiality.’

‘Red tape’ = Regulatory, administrative or legislative barriers to privatization and corporate expansion in our health care. Cuts to regulations that are designed to protect patients, workers and the public.

‘Reform’ = Privatization.

‘Savings’ = Cuts! Every dollar “saved” is a dollar not spent on patient care. Doubly so if “savings” are found through contracting out services.

‘Sustainability’ = A code word used to claim public health spending is fiscally unsustainable and that the solution is a shift to more private health care. Bluntly, this is a lie. Shifting from public to private spending shifts the burden from the wealthy to the sick. The real cost drivers are private elements not covered by Medicare, especially pharmaceuticals. Evidence shows public, not-for-profit care is less expensive, safer and more equitable.

‘Transformation’ = Moving from a system where health care is a human right to a profit-driven system that prioritizes expensive and inappropriate care. In a two-tier system, doctors can charge whatever they want, and oversell ’profitable’ procedures while neglecting others.

‘Union-Run Hospitals’ = People run hospitals. A euphemism that's used as a direct attack on our front-line health care workers working in our public hospitals for our public good. Used to justify moving surgeries and other procedures into private, for-profit facilities, where health care workers are guaranteed fewer workplace protections. 

'Reducing wait times' = A persistent myth that has been peddled by privatizers for decades. Evidence from Alberta and elsewhere continues to show that privatization in fact lengthens wait times, by siphoning health care resources out of the public health care system.