Fraser Institute report claims thousands have left Canada for medical care

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter

While the supreme court ruling on 'Obamacare' has quelled some of the debate about healthcare insurance in America, it seems the arguments in this country are just beginning.

The right-leaning Fraser Institute is stirring the pot with a new report that claims that 46,169 Canadians left the country to get medical treatment elsewhere in 2011.

"In some cases, these patients needed to leave Canada due to a lack of available resources or a lack of appropriate procedure [or] technology," Nadeem Esmail, the author notes in his report.

"In others, their departure will have been driven by a desire to return more quickly to their lives, to seek out superior quality care, or perhaps to save their own lives or avoid the risk of disability. Clearly, the number of Canadians who ultimately receive their medical care in other countries is not insignificant."

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The report buoys the argument of two Alberta men who are taking Alberta's private healthcare ban to court.

On Tuesday, the National Post reported that former Wildrose Party candidate John Carpay is representing the two men who say they paid thousands of dollars for surgery in the United States because the wait was too long in Alberta. The province then refused to reimburse them because the procedures were available at home.

"We're saying the current model forces people to suffer in pain on waiting lists and sometimes risk death," Carpay told the Post.

The case hinges on a milestone Quebec ruling in 2005, that found that province's monopoly on the public health system amid growing wait lists to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Chaoulli v. Quebec, that if a provincial medical system could not eliminate its waiting lists, it would be obliged to allow its residents to seek private medical insurance.

"The Supreme Court has given provincial governments two choices: either somehow figure out a way to get rid of waiting lists, or if you can't do that, you have to allow people the right to access health care outside the government's monopoly system," Carpay said.

The ruling was not binding outside Quebec, which means similar challenges would have to be launched on a province-by-province basis.

Many, however, believe Carpay's constitutional challenge is simply an ideological ploy to create a parallel, privately delivered healthcare system in Alberta.

Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne told the Post: "What we're hearing from Mr. Carpay is consistent with the leader of the party he ran for, the Wildrose Party, in the last election in his desire for an increase of privatization of the publicly funded system."

According to Rabble.ca, Alberta Liberal Health Critic Dr. David Swann called Carpay the Wildrose standard-bearer for health care and accused party supporters of "trying to use the courts to dismantle the public health care system" to support "the narrow interests of for-profit health companies."

With an aging population, staggering wait times across the country and federal cuts to increases in health spending, this is a debate just heating-up in Canada.

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