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Duplicate private health insurance permissible under the Canada Health Act, says the Montreal Economic Institute

Montreal, November 10, 2005 – Among the various categories of private health insurance found in OECD countries, which ones could emerge here in the wake of the Chaoulli-Zeliotis ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada on timely access to medical care?

An Economic Note published today by the Montreal Economic Institute says the only category that would be allowed here is so-called duplicate insurance, which would enable Quebec residents who so desire to be treated in private hospitals while remaining covered by the public system, which they would still have to support through their taxes.

“This type of insurance would comply with the Canada Health Act,” says the Institute’s research director, Valentin Petkantchin. Other types of private insurance, falling into categories known as complementary insurance, primary principal insurance and primary substitute insurance, would not be allowed under Canadian law.

Under duplicate insurance, Quebec residents could choose to remain insured with the Quebec health insurance board while making added payments for the option of being treated in a parallel private system, with no public funds committed to cover the costs.

“Without private insurance, only very wealthy citizens could obtain medical care from private establishments, often outside Canada, paying directly from their own pockets,” Mr. Petkantchin says. “In exchange for the payment of insurance premiums, this care could become accessible here in Quebec to a broader share of the population.”

Currently, supplementary insurance is the only category of private health insurance available in Quebec, covering extras or services that are uninsured by the public system. However, the Supreme Court ruled last June that the Quebec government cannot continue to prohibit the offering of private health insurance to cover services that are insured by the public system.

Common elsewhere in the world

Duplicate insurance is available in many countries, including Finland, Italy, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom. In some places it attracts a large share of the population, as in Australia, where nearly 45% of citizens hold this type of insurance.

In other countries, its role is marginal because of competition from public health insurance, especially where waiting lists are almost non-existent, as in France.

“Private insurance is a way of increasing the overall resources devoted to health care and thus eventually of reducing waiting lists,” Mr. Petkantchin adds. “An OECD study confirms that the greater the resources (public and private) the less likely waiting lists become.”

Titled Using Private Insurance to Finance Health Care, this Economic Note is available on the Institute’s Website. Quebec’s 19,300 doctors and residents got a preview in the November issue of Santé inc. magazine.

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Information and interview requests: Patrick Leblanc, Communications Director, Montreal Economic Institute, Telephone: (514) 273-0969 / E-mail: pleblanc@iedm.org

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