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Private clinics and their charges for essential medical services in Manitoba

Statement by Dougald Lamont, Manitoba Liberal Leader - today
Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen’s claim that he only recently learned that a private clinic in Manitoba is charging $650 so patients can cut to the front of the line for echocardiograms is simply not credible.
Goertzen claimed to have heard in the media about the clinic being at risk of violating the Canada Health Act, but he has continued to defend the clinic, as did his department of health. It is hard to believe that he was unaware, especially given the implied approval he has given to other private services like MRIs.
We want to make our position clear:
Private clinics in Manitoba should not be charging fees so patients can jump the queue for diagnostic tests.
These tests should be available to all Manitobans at public expense, based on medical need - and could be, but the Pallister Government is starving the health care system of funds.
If these private clinics are not willing to provide services based on medical need to all Manitobans, they should be barred from receiving any public funding.
The Pallister Government is wrong to ignore the principles of Canada’s health care system enshrined in the Canada Health Act.
Our health care system is supposed to be based on fundamental principles of fairness, because while anyone can get sick, not everyone can afford the care that will save their life. Letting people jump to the front of the line because they are higher status, more powerful or have more money is not a convenience, it is a form of corruption.
The fact that services are available in other provinces is irrelevant: it is time to stop the continual erosion of those principles.
We need to be clear about the issues here, because Minister Goertzen and the Pallister government have been relentlessly misleading Manitobans on health care on a daily basis for months.
They may say otherwise, but the evidence shows that:
• Letting people pay to cut in line won’t reduce wait times.
• The Federal Government is not cutting Health funding - but should increase their contribution.
• The Pallister Government is cutting health care - they spent $100-million less than promised last year.
• Quality health care costs less than bad health care
• We can afford to, and should invest in better health care
The argument that private spending on health care can reduce the burden on the public system is an admission that we are not spending enough money in the system.
- Dougald Lamont, Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party
Backgrounder
1. The Canada Health Act is the law of the land, and the Pallister Government cannot ignore the law
The Federal government has expressed concern that a private clinic may be violating the principles of the Canada Health Act.
The Canada Health Act exists to ensure that all Canadians have equal access to health care.
In Canada, our system is based on the principle that people will get treatment based on need, and not that they can jump to the front of the line because they are higher status, more powerful or have more money.
It is time to stop the continual erosion of those principles.
While anyone can get sick, not everyone can pay for care.
2. Letting people pay to cut in line won’t improve wait times - because so few people can afford to pay
Dr. Alan Katz, director of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy has said the clinic plan “is not going to shorten wait times. Evidence from around the world has shown that that's not the case.”
There is a simple reason for this. The number of people who can actually afford to pay out of pocket - or who even have private insurance through work - is tiny.
The right-wing, anti-public health care Fraser Institute found that only 50,000-60,000 of Canada’s population of 36-million seek specialist treatment in the U.S. each year.
That is only 0.1% of the population.
The vast majority of Manitobans, including middle-class Manitobans cannot afford these fees, to say nothing of the record number of people living in poverty.
3. The Federal Government *is not* cutting Health funding - but should increase their contribution
The Federal Government is giving Manitoba a 3% increase in health care this year, and into the future. On top of that 3%, the Federal Government offered targeted funds for mental health and kidney disease, which the Pallister government at first refused.
When this change to the funding formula was made under the Harper Conservatives, PCs like Brian Pallister and Kelvin Goertzen were silent. Pallister suggested that Manitoba was flush with tax revenues.
It is true that funding was going up by 6% a year, and that 3% is a lower increase.
Should the Federal Government increase its contribution? Yes.
But it is not true to say that the Federal Government is cutting.
4. The Pallister Government *is* cutting health care.
The PC government is cutting health care - by cutting budgets, firing people and/or “deleting” positions.
The government’s numbers from the 2016-2017 public accounts showed that the Pallister government spent $100-million less than they budgeted.
The specific cuts included:
- Aboriginal and Northern Health Office: Cut by $1.19-million
- Addictions Policy and Support: Cut by $1.46-million
Funding to Health Authorities:
- Acute Care Services - Cut by $12.13-million
- Long Term Care Services - Cut by $6.4-million
- Home Care Services - $2.17-million
- Community and Mental Health Services - $15.9-million
- Emergency Response and Transport Services - $12.5-million
5. Quality health care costs less than bad health care
Getting things right once means you don’t spend time and money fixing mistakes - and this is especially true in health care.
The Mayo Clinic in the U.S. is world-famous for the quality of its care - but it is in the bottom 15% in terms of costs.
Manitoba can afford a better health care system - and while an excellent health care system takes effort and work to set up, it makes everyone better off in the long run - including the people paying for it.
6. We can afford a better public health system
The Pallister government keeps using the word “unsustainable” and fearmongering about the province’s finances to justify cuts to health care.
The main reason that governments are facing financial troubles is not overspending. It is because they have been cutting taxes for years.
Between 1999 and 2008, the Manitoba NDP cut $1-billion in taxes. If taxes were returned to what they were under the PCs in 1999, Manitoba would have no deficit.
The Federal government has shrunk to its smallest size since the 1930s.
The Corporate tax was cut from 30% to 15%, the small business tax was reduced to 9%, and personal income taxes at all levels and the GST were all reduced.
For decades, we have been told that if we cut taxes, governments will get more revenue because people who have been avoiding taxes will, all of a sudden, start paying them.
Instead we’ve seen rampant tax avoidance and tens of billions of dollars flowing out of Canada into tax havens, while governments cut services.
Our problem is not that governments are bankrupt and can’t pay their bills, but that they are deadbeats and won’t.
Governments need to pay their bills, and everyone needs to pay their fair share of taxes.

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