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Calls for privatizing health care ignore the evidence

TORONTO, Mar. 3, 2015 – As we creep closer to the Federal Election, the flurry of anti-Medicare rhetoric is accelerating, but it flies in the face of the evidence, according to a group of doctors.

Medical professionals point to TV ads by the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) and articles like the recent one by Gwyn Morgan published by the The Globe and Mail on March 2, 2015 as examples of the faulty logic dominating the debate.

For generations public health care has enabled Canadians to access care based on need, not ability to pay, but recent efforts by conservative think tanks claim that dedicating more medical resources to serving those who can pay more will somehow increase access for those who cannot. But evidence shows that dedicating more resources to fee-paying patients decreases what is available for the rest of us.

“Morgan’s claims rest on a misrepresentation of evidence, and are indicative of a disconcerting trend in recent anti-Medicare discourse” said Dr. Ryan Meili, Vice-Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “These ads and articles ignore research such as the seminal study of wait times in Australia by Stephen J Duckett.” Duckett’s study shows that dedicating more resources to private options means patients in the public system wait longer. And this is not confined to Australia: a host of researchers have come to the same conclusion, that increased private sector activity is connected to increases in wait times in the public sector. Similarly, the CCF ads suggest that patients would wait less in a private system, ignoring the fact that patients who can't afford high medical bills would wait longer, as they do in the US.

Articles like Morgan’s are appearing at a time of heightened debate over health care in Canada. For-profit companies such as BC’s Cambie Surgeries Corporation are pushing for courts to declare a fully public health care system unconstitutional, opening the door for a US-style, two-tier system that offers premium service to those with the ability to pay, as opposed to those who are most medically in need.    

Dr. Brian Day, Cambie’s director and co-owner, has been running the clinic unlawfully for the last several years, and was found to have engaged in over $490,000 in extra billing in about 30 days, and filing over $66,000 worth of overlapping claims—where both the patient and province are billed for the same service. Day’s activities, both in the clinic and the courtroom, represent the enormous opportunity for profit that exists in private pay clinics.

“It’s time to start questioning the motives behind the rhetoric,” said Dr. Meili. “Rather than getting mired in ideologically driven arguments, we should focus on the evidence and work to expand and improve the best elements of our single-payer, publicly-funded system.”

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For more information:

Sean Meagher, Canadian Doctors for Medicare

T: 416-351-3300

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