Last night, prominent Montreal lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard filed a petition on behalf of the Réseau FADOQ asking the Federal Court to issue a writ of mandamus to compel the Minister of Health to enforce the Canada Health Act in Quebec. The Government of Quebec instituted two-tier medicine last November when it voted in favour of Bill 20, which allows doctors to add accessory fees to their patient services.
This is the first time to our knowledge that a citizens' group has asked the Federal Court to compel the government to apply the Canada Health Act.
CDM, along with our colleagues in the Canada Health Coalition, began working with public health care advocates including Monsieur Menard when we learned of Minister Barrette’s disturbing proposal to amend Bill 20, and legalize extra billing.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Canadian Doctors for Medicare supports court action against Quebec extra-billing law
MONTREAL (MAY 3, 2016) – At a press conference today in Montreal, Canadian Doctors for Medicare (CDM) and Quebec health care advocates joined the Réseau FADOQ, Marc Ferland, and Liette Hacala Meunier in their bid to compel the federal government to enforce the Canada Health Act (CHA).
The plaintiffs are represented by Jean-Pierre Ménard. Ménard filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Federal Court on May 2, asking the Court to order Canada’s Minister of Health to apply the Canada Health Act in Quebec to counter Bill 20, which violates the CHA by permitting and regulating add-on fees.
This violation is part of a growing and worrisome trend across Canada that threatens to undermine the universality and affordability of public medicare. Quebec and some provinces are allowing patients to be charged for services that are covered by the public system. This jeopardizes access for those who are unable to pay fees.
Dr. Brian Hutchison of CDM said, “Extra billing and user fees are, in fact, barriers to health care. When doctors begin charging auxiliary fees, it creates a two-tier health care system: one for those who can afford it and one for those who cannot.”
“Research shows that user fees are an impediment to care, especially for low income people who often don’t access care until they are so sick they can’t avoid it,” Dr. Hutchison continued. "This not only damages their quality of life, but leads to higher healthcare costs.”
The people of Quebec is not alone in facing these challenges to public healthcare. Violations of the Canada Health Act are on the rise across Canada. Physicians and clinics have quietly been charging extra fees for health services for many years, yet calls for the federal government to enforce the Act have been ignored.
This court action should not have been necessary. CDM calls on the federal government to protect public medicare in Quebec and across Canada by identifying violations and applying the penalties prescribed in the Act.
Canadian Doctors for Medicare provides a voice for Canadian doctors who want to strengthen and improve Canada's universal publicly-funded health care system. We advocate for innovations in treatment and prevention services that are evidence-based and improve access, quality, equity and sustainability.
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