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Letter: Medicare system should be protected

I applaud the B.C. government’s recent announcement that it will bring the Medicare Protection Amendment Act into full force. This will strengthen the province’s powers to protect patients and stop private clinics charging patients steep unlawful fees for medically necessary services already provided by our public Medicare system.

I am one of many in B.C. who had to wait more than 18 months for a hip replacement. Orthopedic surgeons often had lists in the hundreds of patients waiting for surgery. Why?

Because the former B.C. government was not providing sufficient funding to the public Medicare system so that operating rooms could extend their hours, and nursing staff could be hired in order to open more surgical beds.

The former B.C. government’s failure to act has enabled a situation where wealthier patients can choose to buy their surgeries or diagnostic tests at private for-profit clinics, thus avoiding long wait times. This contradicts values that Canadians want their health care system to reflect, i.e., universal access based on need, not on ability to pay. It has also resulted in B.C. being fined $15.9 million by the federal government for allowing extra-billing during the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

The current B.C. government’s new Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Strategy to drive down wait times in the public system will mean patients will get faster access to care without facing steep private fees. This will work to eliminate the demand for private for-profit health care.

Enforcing the Medicare Protection Amendment Act, coupled with the new Surgical/Diagnostic Imaging Strategy, will strengthen B.C.’s public health care system at this critical time when private clinic owner Brian Day’s court case to undo Canada’s public health care system resumes April 9 in Vancouver.

Anne Morris

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