The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear a challenge of a British Columbia law intended to preserve public health care through measures against extra-billing and certain private insurance.
Two Vancouver private health facilities and four patients argued that provisions of the Medicare Protection Act violate their constitutional rights due to long waits for care in B.C.’s publicly funded system.
They said it amounted to a breach of the patients’ life, liberty and security of the person under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
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The Supreme Court of B.C. dismissed the constitutional challenge three years ago and the provincial Court of Appeal upheld the ruling last year.
Justice John Steeves said in the original court ruling that while long waits for care might increase the risk to some patients, the provisions were justified by the overall objective of supporting a system where access to health care is based on need, not the ability to pay.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement that the high court ruling shows strong support for universal health care and the Medical Protection Act, which he says the provincial government is committed to upholding.
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“In 2018, we strengthened the act to include new protections for patients to prevent extra-billing, clarified the rules for medical practitioners and established consequences for those who break the rules,” the statement said.
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Strengthening the act allows the government to “act decisively” against violators, Dix said, and ensures “the best interests of patients are prioritized and safeguarded.”
The province is also moving to cut wait times, despite the upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dix.
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Ninety-nine per cent of patients whose services were postponed during the pandemic have now had their procedures, the statement said.
The statement says B.C. now ranks “first nationally for the percentage of patients meeting clinical benchmarks for cataract surgeries and second for both hip and knee replacements.”
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