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Private clinics are part of the solution, not part of the problem, according to the Montreal Economic Institute

Montreal, December 5, 2013 – Contrary to the alarmist declarations of Health Minister Réjean Hébert, who worries about the “hemorrhaging” of doctors to private clinics, these physicians actually represent a mere 1.38% of all doctors in Quebec. This is one of the bits of information contained in the new Economic Note published today by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI), based on official statistics as well as original field research.

The publication also informs us that the number of doctors working in the public system has continued to grow rapidly in recent years. From 2004 to 2012, the number of general practitioners rose by 13.8%, while the number of specialists climbed by 21.5%. Despite this, wait times keep getting longer, even though the province of Quebec has more doctors per capita than the Canadian average.

“We are very far from any supposed exodus toward the private sector, and these departures can in no way be held responsible for the delays and other failings of public health care. Patients who turn to this private solution do so to meet needs that are unmet by the public system,” says Jasmin Guénette, Vice President of the MEI and coauthor of the Note.

Complementing the Note, a short documentary was also produced by the MEI. Testimonies from doctors and patients provide us with a better understanding of the role and benefits of private clinics, as well as the reasons that motivate those who use them.

“Our study allowed us to observe that the main reason motivating people to resort to private clinics is the ability to be seen more quickly by a doctor, even if this entails a financial contribution,” underlines Julie Frappier, coauthor of the Note. The video and the Note shine a light on the popular belief that only the well-off have access to this kind of care. In fact, the financial profile of patients who participated in the study is similar to the profile of the general population.

One possible way of making these private clinics more accessible to more families is through the use of tax credits. Currently, taxpayers can request non-refundable tax credits corresponding to 20% of spending on medical fees above 3% of net income. According to MEI President Michel Kelly-Gagnon, “Spending on medical consultations should be admissible for tax credits from the very first dollar. Rather than constituting a net ‘tax expenditure,’ such an approach would actually reduce total public spending on health care since only a small portion of patient expenses would be reimbursed, whereas a consultation in the public health care system is 100% financed by taxpayers.”

Produced in the fall of 2013 by Jasmin Guénette, the five-minute documentary can be viewed on our website. The Economic Note entitled Private Medicine in Quebec was prepared by Jasmin Guénette, Vice President of the Montreal Economic Institute, and Julie Frappier, health economist and holder of a master’s degree in economics from the Université de Montréal. It is also available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its publications and conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Interview requests: Mariam Diaby, Montreal Economic Institute / Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2231 / Cell.: 514-668-3063 / Email: mdiaby@iedm.org

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