Creeping privatization has led to illegal health fees

Last month, a friend was told by his doctor that it would take a year to have a colonoscopy performed at his local hospital. (A very dubious claim.) Then he was told he could get it done at the same doctor’s private clinic faster…if he paid $75.

This is an outright violation of the Canada Health Act.

A Toronto woman wrote on May 7:

“I have just had cataract surgery in a private clinic. I wasn’t told until I got to the doctor’s office that it would cost me just under $2000. I asked the referring ophthalmologist why I was being charged so much. She said I could have asked to waive the fee. But the doctor who performed the cataract operation didn’t suggest this to me.

Last week a man from southwestern Ontario told me he had to pay for laser cataract surgery because it was not covered by OHIP. (It is.)

When Premier Doug Ford announced plans to expand private clinics, he promised patients would never have to pay with their credit cards. Yet existing private clinics in Ontario, Already forcing – or manipulating – patients into paying outrageous additional fees. And clinics overcharge with impunity.

The Ford government used its majority to pass Bill 60 earlier this month. This new law expressly allows the transfer of surgeries and diagnostics from public hospitals to for-profit clinics. This puts the fundamental tenets of our public health care system – that people receive care based on their need, not their wealth – in real and urgent danger.

Patients need to know two things:

First, patients have a “Bill of Rights” under the Canada Health Act. If you are covered by OHIP, all medically necessary hospital and physician services — including cataract surgeries, colonoscopies, and MRIs — must be provided at no additional cost, whether at a public hospital or private clinic .

To be clear: No amount can be charged to a patient for medically necessary lenses and eye exams, or for premises, equipment or personnel.

Second, private clinics generate profits through “upselling” to patients, which offers a dizzying array of medically unnecessary add-ons.

Bill 60 does not prohibit this practice. Surprisingly, it actually invites new private clinics to pitch their upsell plans to the government. If they aren’t stopped, can anyone doubt that it’s only a matter of time until we’re manipulated into paying thousands of dollars for “extra-special” joint replacements? ” and more ?

What is most appalling is that this privatization unnecessarily puts our public health care at risk. We categorically do not need private clinics to reduce surgical wait times. Virtually all public hospitals have operating rooms that are closed evenings, nights and weekends. They should be funded and staffed to open at full capacity to eliminate backlogs.

So no one thinks we can’t afford it, Ontario funds its hospitals at the lowest rate in Canada.

Our public hospitals have developed over a hundred years. Communities built hospitals to care for victims of the 1918-20 Spanish flu pandemic. Veterans Memorial Hospitals were built after the World Wars. Over generations, Ontarians have volunteered, raised funds and built our hospitals. They are ours: our public goods, our heritage, our heritage.

Without any democratic mandate, sixty-eight deputies voted in favor of passing Bill 60, privatizing the heart of our public hospitals.

In response, the Ontario Health Coalition is holding a massive referendum organized by volunteers. More than 150,000 people have already voted online and in advance. Community votes across Ontario will take place outside local businesses and public spaces on Friday and Saturday.

When governments take away our democracy and threaten what is ours, we need to find ways to empower people to make their voices heard. And, if we speak in sufficient numbers, the Ford government will eventually have to listen.

Natalie Mehra is the Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition

Creeping privatization has led to illegal health fees

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