Is this the end for Canada’s health care system? Some preliminary thoughts on the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling

by Hans on 2005/06/09

Wow.

If you haven’t heard, the CBC.ca reported that the Supreme Court of Canada has judged that “Quebec patients should be allowed to buy insurance to cover medical treatments already provided by medicare, citing the physical and psychological suffering caused by long waits for services in the publicly funded system” (Health-care ruling called ‘stinging-indictment’ – CBC.ca). I must say that I was surprised and not surprised by the finding.

The interesting thing is that the judges voted 4-3 for the plaintiff in Quebec (i.e., Quebec’s laws are illegal). But, the justices voted 3-3 regarding the legality of prohibiting purchasing of private health insurance in light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (i.e., no immediate impact outside of Quebec). I’m going to think about some of the potential consequences before commenting more. But, my first thought when I heard the judgment was “is this the end for Canada’s publicly financed health care system?”. What happens now? As expected, the politicians and interest groups were out in full force trying to spin the news in their favour.

I’m going to read the full document to see what the Supreme Court judges found before I write more on the subject. You can read the full judgment from the Supreme Court of Canada here. The document is quite long (134 pages), probably reflecting the complex nature of the issue.

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