For those of us who have long worked for the restoration and expansion of private parallel medical and hospital services and insurance alongside the public system, June 9, 2005 was a memorable day. It will be recognized as the day when the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) restored health care freedom to individual Quebecers and by implication to all Canadians.
This landmark decision exposed and invalidated two oppressive sections of Quebec’s medicare legislation that, for forty years, had banned private parallel medical and hospital insurance for services covered by public medicare plans, and prohibited private medical services in private hospitals by physicians who were not participating in medicare.
The judgement was a fatal blow to lobby groups that had fought vigorously to retain these illegal sections in medicare legislation. They had not only destroyed health care freedom but, by eliminating private alternatives, had contributed to the lowering of Canada’s health system performance ranking to 30th place worldwide.
Since its enactment, this flawed medicare legislation has been out of step with all nations of the free world and was found to be arbitrary and unjustified by the SCC. As pointed out by the SCC, the availability of private insurance alternatives does not weaken the public system.
For more than 40 years, governments have promoted and enforced what is now deemed by the Supreme Court to be unlawful medicare legislation. One can only imagine the needless pain and suffering inflicted on thousands of ordinary patients, and the lives lost during these years. Many patients were loyal believers in the medicare myths and values proclaimed by expedient politicians and lobby groups as “the Canadian way.” They stood quietly in line with no other choice save waiting their turn under medicare’s centrally planned and fateful egalitarian program of rationed services and false hopes.
Simply put, patients were victims of disastrous public policy and bad legislation, disguised and supported by most of our political parties as hallmarks of medicare. Thanks to Chaoulli, Zeliotis and the Supreme Court of Canada their game is up.
Dr. J. Edwin Coffey est Senior Fellow à l’Institut économique de Montréal.