How many other private clinics are extra-billing? British Columbians deserve to know
PORT COQUITLAM – In the wake of the audit that confirmed a controversial Vancouver private health care clinic was breaking the law with its extra billing practises, British Columbians need to know how many other private medical clinics are charging illegal fees for basic care as well, say the New Democrats.
“It took six years for definitive information to come out about two private health care companies, but now we need to know the full extent of the problem,” said New Democrat health critic Mike Farnworth. “How many others are there?
“The Canada Health Act is clear: extra billing is not permitted. It’s the provincial government’s responsibility to make sure that health providers in B.C. are not violating the law.”
Farnworth pointed out that the B.C. government could be subject to fines from Ottawa for allowing these extra-billing practices to continue, which makes it all the more important that the British Columbia laws have some teeth to them.
“The Medicare Protection Amendment Act proposed fines of up to $20,000 for extra-billing practices, but the Liberals refused to enact that part of the law that was passed unanimously by the legislature in 2003,” said Farnworth. “New Democrats put forward a private member’s bill in 2006 that would bring the full version of the bill into force.
“The health minister shrugged his shoulders yesterday and said the current law is adequate. It’s clearly not adequate, since clinics like Cambie are openly flouting the law. A law that says clinics aren’t allowed to extra-bill when the only punishment is a stern look is no law at all.”
Research from Australia and elsewhere shows that parallel systems like this only serve to extend wait times in the public system by diverting limited resources to the private, for-profit system. Farnworth said Adrian Dix and B.C.'s New Democrats will stand up and be the champions of public health care, since the Liberals have clearly abandoned that responsibility.
“British Columbians have been clear in saying that they don’t believe a person's ability to access health care should be dependent on the size of their bank balance,” said Farnworth. “Public health care only works when the government is willing to defend it. The Liberals won’t; New Democrats will. That’s a key difference.”