Canada Health Act used in Zombie Defence of For-Profit Health Care

Andrew Duffy, in an article syndicated by Postmedia, made the logical equivalent of mixing metaphors when he used the Canada Health Act (CHA) to legitimize the use of private clinics. The result, as with mixed metaphors, is a “head-scratching” argument in favour of Centric’s takeover of the Shouldice Clinic.

Duffy uses a confidential government manual found by Jeffery Simpson, author of a recent book on Canada’s health care system, to argue that the CHA was not intended to prohibit the use of for-profit companies to deliver essential medical services.  This expose, complete with grainy pictures, is used to undermine what Duffy sees as a key argument of most who oppose private health care.

Unfortunately for Duffy he is not addressing those who oppose for-profit medicine nor is Jeffery Simpson’s revelation a revelation.  The existence of the manual is an interesting historical footnote but it is only necessary to read the widely distributed Romanow discussion papers to know that the CHA does not prohibit the use of for-profit companies.  As Duffy points out the CHA has been used to penalize provinces for extra billing and user fees, not for using private companies to deliver publicly funded services.

Duffy then mixes his political facts to imply that the opposition to the takeover the Shouldice Clinic by the health care conglomerate, Centric, is based in some misunderstanding of the Canada Health Act.  This is confusing. He has apparently read our letter to Ontario’s Minister of Health objecting to the takeover and it only mentions the CHA in the context that many for-profit companies extra bill, charge user fees, and allow patients to queue jump: all illegal. Duffy seems to think that because the CHA, as all pieces of legislation, is a compromise between different social forces and does not ban private companies, that it condones their use? Andrew, while we are scratching our heads, a quick trip to a logic 101 class might help.

The sale of Shouldice to Centric once again raises the issue of how best to deliver health care. Along with the well researched and documented concerns of increased cost and mortality and decreased quality and access associated with for-profit providers, which have been outlined in this blog and many other more reputable sources, Centric highlights the growing problem of corporate concentration and foreign ties in Canada’s private health care sector.

Centric is nominally a Canadian company but it has strong ties to transnational private equity firms. For-profit primary care chains, such as Appletree, AIM and MCI, are expanding their presence; laboratories and other diagnostic services have for decades been dominated by an oligopoly of multinational corporations; and Saskatchewan’s expansion into publicly paid for-profit surgery uses Surgical Centers Incorporated, a chain with facilities in Alberta and British Columbia.

Do these conglomerate chains increase the problems of for-profit care? Do they open Canada to trade challenges undermining public health care?  Do they place Canadian health care needs below foreign profit concerns?  All good questions which are hard to answer because we do not even have access to simple accountability data like, how much public money is paid to these for-profit companies?

There are problems with the CHA: one is that it does not require public non-profit delivery.

A problem with the health-care-delivery debate is that those who favour the use of for-profit companies tend to rely on fabricated arguments, for example, ‘activists oppose private delivery because they misunderstand the Canada Health Act.’  These fabricated arguments, like all other zombies, are hard to kill because their perpetrators won’t come into the daylight and address the real problems with for-profit delivery.

Duffy’s article can be found at:

Explore posts in the same categories: Funding-Cost For-profit Delivery, Miscellaneous, Ontario Government Policy

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