Health Minister Adrian Dix. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

It’s often been said that there are only three countries in the world where it is illegal to pay for your own health care: Cuba, North Korea and Canada.

I’m not sure if it’s strictly true. There may be a few other tin-pot dictatorships where access to life-saving procedures is held in the iron grip of a state monopoly, and buying private health insurance is an offence.

Here in B.C., the discussion remains trapped in a false narrative where we are good, the Americans are bad and the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Our politicians talk about protecting “Medicare,” seemingly unaware that this is actually the name of a U.S. program. B.C. has legislation misnamed the “Medicare Protection Act” to protect the monopoly.

Vancouver surgeon Dr. Brian Day continues to push for the mixed option in court, with federal and provincial government lawyers arrayed against him every step of the way. The constitutional battle for the right to pay for your own care was won years ago in Quebec, but somehow that hasn’t translated to other provinces.

Day’s lawyers have applied for an injunction against new penalties being brought into effect by Health Minister Adrian Dix. As of Oct. 1, extra billing for any procedure covered by B.C.’s Medical Services Plan could result in a $10,000 fine for the first offence and $20,000 for the second, along with refund of the extra billing.

These provisions were passed into B.C. law in 2003, but were not enacted. Then-premier Gordon Campbell provided an affidavit to Day’s court case to explain why. Barring private clinics while the public system can’t keep up with demand produces one of two outcomes: the patient waits, or goes to the U.S. or another country for treatment.

As premier, Campbell conducted the “conversation on health” to try to include the reality of today’s world. Across Europe, private and public health care coexist and the results are generally faster care and lower costs.

Here, no hospital can even tell you the cost of a heart surgery, because it’s un-Canadian to talk about money. Here, you wait in line for an MRI scan to see if you need surgery, but your dog can go right in as soon as you whip out your credit card.

And that’s not even discussing the arbitrarily non-essential matters like dental care and suffering-relieving treatments like massage and chiropractic therapy that Canadians are allowed to carry insurance for.

Dix shows the ideological rigidity one would expect from an NDP MLA from East Vancouver. One of his earliest moves as health minister was to ban payment for blood plasma donations in B.C.

This preserves the long-standing practice of importing plasma from paid blood donations in the U.S., since Canadians come nowhere near to donating enough blood to meet the demand for expanding blood product treatments as well as whole blood transfusions. There is no practical effect of the ban, other than an aura of ideological purity for Dix and his colleagues.

Social media comments on Campbell’s involvement in the Day case sum up the entrenched public attitude. Some say B.C. should simply raise taxes on the rich until the problem is solved. In fact, this would push more people to the U.S. permanently, rather than just to get their knees fixed.

Missing the point perfectly, one asked: “So the pain of the wealthy is worse than the pain of the poor?”

No, their pain is equally valued. That’s why it’s important to find the most efficient way to ease it.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ten of 11 people taken into custody after shooting in Surrey have been released

Police say four guns, two Tasers, drugs and other weapons were seized after home shot at in Whalley

UPDATE: Surrey getting a new hospital, in Cloverdale

Premier John Horgan said the ‘brand new hospital’ will be built near Kwantlen Polytechnic University

15-year-old charged following threat to South Surrey high school

Police announce pair of teens arrested for Nov. 14 incident at Elgin Park Secondary

Injured eagle rescued in White Rock: ‘It was the size of a turkey!’

Bald eagle may have gotten into a fight over territory

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

TransLink CEO ‘hopeful’ SkyTrain shutdown can be averted with last-minute deal

No extra buses will be on the roads if strike goes ahead

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Don’t expect extra bus service during impending SkyTrain strike, CMBC says

Full SkyTrain shutdown is scheduled to start Tuesday morning

Feds not enforcing standards on Hungarian duck imports, B.C. farmer says

‘You have no way of knowing what’s in the bag’

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Vancouver Giants fall to Spokane Chiefs

‘We are just having a tough time scoring right now’

Most Read