Single-tier health care system questioned

While Canadians strongly support health care as a basic, fundamental right for all, questions have arisen on whether the monopoly of provinces delivering a single-tier, universally-administered system should continue, Toronto lawyer Jeremy Richler writes in Lawyers Weekly.

In a recent Environics poll, 54 per cent of Canadians “agree that individual Canadians should be given the right to buy private health care within Canada if they do not receive timely access in the public system,” even if this were to weaken the principle of universality, with some having quicker access to care than others, the article says.

Forty three per cent of respondents disagreed, it adds.

“The legal precedent for this line of reasoning can be found in Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General) [2005] S.C.J. No. 33, whereby the Supreme Court used the principles of fundamental justice enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to allow limited private insurance for the delivery of medically necessary care,” writes Richler.

“In a split decision, the majority for the court found that private health insurance is entirely legitimate where a public monopoly impedes access to health care services, undermining both the security of the person and the principles of fundamental justice.”

Though Canadians will continue to passionately debate the merits of increased privatization of health care, initial polling shows the pendulum swinging in favour of Chaoulli and limited two-tier care, writes Richler.

“The sooner our politicians are pro-active in addressing these principles of fundamental justice instead of stale, misguided talking points, the better off Canadians will be,” the article says.