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News of the Day ... In Perspective

3/29/2007

Lawsuit fights ban on private medicine in Alberta

Last summer, Calgary patient Bill Murray filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to overturn the provincial ban on private medical insurance, in an attempt to broaden the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Chaoulli case (Calgary Herald 9/6/06).

“They’ve been saying things for 10 years about changing health-care policy, but the only thing the Alberta government has done in the past decade is throw more and more tax dollars at an unaccountable government monopoly,” said John Carpay, executive director of the Canadian Constitutional Foundation, which supports the lawsuit.

At age 57, Murray was denied the state-of-the-art Birmingham hip resurfacing surgery recommended by a specialist because he was older than the “recommended” age of 55 (Calgary Herald 9/7/06).

After receiving the surgery privately, Murray has returned to an active lifestyle that includes playing squash.

The lawsuit is meeting stiff opposition from the Alberta government, which used taxpayer dollars to bring in six lawyers, three from out of province, and will probably do so again at the next hearing, wrote John Carpay (Calgary Herald 3/22/07).

Public health advocates call the lawsuit an attempt to “wedge the door” open to further privatization of medicine.

More than a year after the Supreme Court of Canada found that death on long waiting lists endangers the right to life protected by the Quebec Charter of Rights, Quebec has only allowed patients to purchase private insurance for a handful of procedures, including joint replacement.

Some Canadian “snowbirds” with addresses in places like Arizona buy American insurance, presumably with the intent of coming to the United States if an expensive procedure is needed, stated an insurance broker. No figures are available on how widespread this practice is.

While the slow legal process grinds on, Canadians wait. In a new 5-minute video clip, Stuart Browning shows the effect on Two Women, one with a politically favored condition.

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