Next gen of CDN MDs urge the feds to Defend the Health Act

OTTAWA (September 29, 2016) -- Medical students from across Canada have joined forces today for a national day of action asking the federal health minister to act on infringements to the Canada Health Act (CHA).

The Defend the Act campaign arose from concerns expressed by medical students regarding the threat of extra-billing to patient accessibility and equity. (Extra-billing occurs when doctors charge patients fees beyond what the provincial health care insurance plan would pay for that service.) Canada’s future generation of physicians is calling on the Federal Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Philpott, to enforce the CHA given recent violations in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Ontario.

“Canadian students are concerned about the integrity of Canada’s health care system,” said Sarah Hanafi, a third-year medical student at the University of Alberta and board member with Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “Medical students want everyone to be able to access care based on their need not on their ability to pay.”

The campaign was created and led by Canadian Doctors for Medicare’s (CDM) student chapters. Supporting organizations include the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) and the International Federation of Medical Students (IFMSA) Québec, the representative bodies of medical students in Canada.

In the lead up to this day of action, students have contacted elected officials and the Minister of Health’s office to advocate on the issue. Student representatives from CDM, the CFMS, and IFMSA-Québec will be delivering a letter to the Honourable Jane Philpott, later today.

The CHA provides the parameters for all provinces to receive health care transfer payments. Provinces can be penalized for contravening the CHA, such having their transfer payments reduced. These penalties provide the provinces with a strong financial incentive to follow federal guidelines; however, all actions hinge on the federal government enforcing the CHA.

Examples of extra-billing have been seen with cataract surgeries in Ontario, MRI scans in Saskatchewan, and at the Cambie Surgical Centre in British Columbia.

“Extra-billing not only contravenes the Canada Health Act, it creates a barrier to healthcare for Canadians who cannot pay and can discourage patients from seeking care,” said Nick Parle, a second-year medical student at McMaster University and CDM board member.

To read the students’ letter, please visit www.defendtheact.com

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.