“Alberta has the power to outlaw fees,” says journalist on a Calgary clinic’s bid to charge for health care
This week’s edition of who is saying what about public health care includes journalist David Climenhaga’s thoughts on two-tier health care in Alberta, pharmacare experts Steve Morgan and Dr. Nav Persaud on a private insurance company’s stunt against universal pharmacare, economist Armine Yalnizian on the spread of agency nursing, and more.
Two-tier health care in Alberta
“If this ‘transformative health-care initiative’, as Talbot-Jones called her new approach to billing is supposed to improve service for patients who can afford the fees, it obviously isn’t going to have that effect for those who don’t have enough income to pay… As one Calgarian wrote last week, ‘if the province encourages this, and if enough doctors take up this idea, this is the end of public health care’… And therein lies the rub. Since the practice appears on its face not to violate the Canada Health Act because patients would not be required to pay for medically necessary services listed by the province, the government can say no laws were broken and look away,” wrote David Climenhaga, journalist and author, in the The Tyee, July 25, 2023
Drug Manufacturer and private insurance company launch prescription ‘stunt’
“An anonymous drug manufacturer has teamed up with a private insurance company to give ‘free’ medicines to select, uninsured residents in two Ontario communities. This is not an act of charity; it is a stunt…
“Millions of Canadians are uninsured for the medicines they need. According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians had no private or public coverage for their prescriptions in 2021. Those lucky enough to have coverage often still face sizable deductibles and co-payments. As a result, about one in six Canadians with drug coverage paid more than $500 out-of-pocket on prescriptions in 2021.
“These gaps and inconsistencies in our patchwork of private and public drug plans are large enough that one in 10 Canadians skips prescriptions because of out-of-pocket costs. . .
“A universal, public pharmacare system would ensure coverage decisions are based on what is best for Canadians using processes that are credible, transparent, and accountable. Relying on private insurers to manage the system will lead to decisions based on profit, and potentially billions siphoned off by financial middlemen,” wrote Steve Morgan, economist and University of British Columbia health professor, and Dr. Nav Persaud, family physician and Canada Research Chair in Health Justice, University of Toronto, in the Toronto Star, July 31, 2023
Agency nursing explosion not unique to Ontario
“[T]he use of agency nursing has exploded. In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, 31 hospitals purchased 450,000 hours from agencies. Last year, 77 hospitals purchased 1.2 million hours. Costs to the public purse more than quadrupled, to $174 million from $38 million,” wrote economist Armine Yalnizian in the Toronto Star, July 26, 2023
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Health care crisis in Montreal looks worse than other cities
“Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows that only 69.8 per cent of Montrealers had a general practitioner in 2019-20, compared to 86.7 per cent of Torontonians, 80 per cent of Vancouverites and 87.2 per cent of Ottawans. In Quebec as a whole, 79.5 per cent of people had access to a primary caregiver; in Canada, the rate was 85.6 per cent… CIHI figures also show the average delay before an initial assessment in Montreal ERs was 6.3 hours in 2021-22. In Toronto, it was 3.6 hours; Vancouver, three; and Ottawa, 4.9. The average for all of Quebec was 6.2 hours, above the Canadian norm of 4.2. Interestingly, in Quebec City, where 79.5 per cent of the population has a GP, it was only 4.7 hours… Similarly, the total time spent in the ER was far higher in Montreal, at 56.5 hours, compared to 34.7 in Toronto, 38.1 in Vancouver, 32.6 in Ottawa and 37.2 in Quebec City,” wrote reporter Allison Hanes in the Montreal Gazette, July 31, 2023
$13-Million in transfers clawed back as Alberta clinics fall under scrutiny
“From the Harrison Healthcare website, it indicates that they do not offer MRI or CT scans, but partner with a third-party private clinic to provide these services . . ,It is these private clinics offering medically necessary diagnostic scans for which Alberta took Canada Health Transfer deductions in March 2023,” the statement reads,” said Health Canada spokesperson Anne Genier in a statement to CBC News, July 28, 2023
Federal government wants more consultation on long-term care standards
“In the wake of the newly released Long Term Care standards, for which the Government of Canada,… this important legislation will aim to help foster advancements of the quality and safety in LTC services across the country. . .The 60-day online consultation will invite people, including LTC residents and their families, to share their perspectives and expertise on how to improve the quality and safety of LTC, foster the implementation of the LTC standards, address human resources challenges, and strengthen accountability in the LTC sector. Feedback will help inform the drafting of the legislation,” reads a Health Canada Statement released by former Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, July 21, 2023. Read the Canadian Health Coalition reaction here.