Bending Principles of the Canada Health Act

In a very frank discussion with federal Minister of Health, Ujjal Dosanjh, CARP raised its confusion and frustration at what appears to be Ottawa’s lax enforcement of medicare. The Minister listened openly to the case made by Judy Cutler and Bill Gleberzon. He agreed with many of the concerns that were expressed, but felt that there were gaps in the Canada Health Act itself.In CARP’s view, the federal government should be taking a more active stand against those provinces that are taking liberties with the principles of the Canada Health Act. It is a law, after all!Health care premiums in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, if not illegal, are certainly regressive. Calling a “user fee” by any other name doesn’t make it anything other than a “user fee.” But, whatever it’s called, people are paying for health care out of their own pockets, which is contrary to the principles of the Canada Health Act. The principles of the Act are being bent and Ottawa continues to sit back and watch what medicare is coming to.CARP asked the Minister to examine the five principles of the Canada Health Act in terms of adherence. For example:Is there really public administrati when we see governments across the country eroding it with privatization of services?How can we claim to have comprehensiveness when Canadians are paying for more and more medically necessary services?How is universality being protected when user fees exclude services for those unable to pay for them? What does portability mean when Canadians from one province can’t necessarily access services in another province? How do long waiting lists for services and shortages of health care professionals fit into accessibility? CARP’s position was plainly stated to the Minister: Ottawa must be vigilant in enforcing the principles of the Canada Health Act — at any time, but especially now that its share of funding for health care has been increased.HomecareThe Minister’s response to CARP’s request for chronic care to be included in the National Home Care Program was one of understanding, but also framed with legal explanations about constitutional jurisdictional responsibility between the provinces/territories and Ottawa. However, CARP pointed out that if Ottawa added funding specifically for chronic care in homecare, the issue would be resolved. Another homecare theme discussed was the lack of a definition for quality in homecare. The main point made by CARP was that only with such a definition can homecare be assessed from the perspective of the recipient rather than just the bottom line of the providers.