2012 Wildrose candidate and lawyer John Carpay Wildrose.
Credits: AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY
It's illegal to buy health insurance in Alberta, but John Carpay's hoping to change that.
Carpay, the president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, filed an application in the Court of Queens Bench seeking to allow the purchase of private health insurance for medically necessary services in Alberta.
The Canada Health Act of 1984 outlaws private health care and private insurance in Canada. In order for insurance companies to offer medical coverage for Canadian medical procedures, it would have to be declared legal here.
A Canadian Supreme Court ruling seven years ago said for Quebec residents, the provincial government must either eliminate wait lists or allow people access to health care outside the government system. A vote on the rights of the rest of Canada had the Supreme Court at an impasse because of a tie vote.
Private insurance wouldn't have to jeopardize publicly-funded health care, said Carpay, who was also the 2012 Wildrose candidate for Calgary-Lougheed.
"Since the Alberta government is unable or unwilling to get rid of the waiting list, it must allow people to access health care outside of the government monopoly," Carpay said.
"Currently, the government monopoly is inflicting massive suffering on tens of thousands of Albertans who are now, as we speak, waiting for surgery. When you have thousands of people living in a state of pain or unable to work, it's costing the Canadian economy billions every year because of people who can't work because they're waiting for surgery."
A parallel system wouldn't dismantle universal health care, but would take the stress off it, said Carpay, pointing to working two-tier systems in European nations like France, Germany and Switzerland.
"They do not have waiting lists in any of those countries because they have parallel private health care systems that coexist alongside the public one, so there isn't pressure on the system," he said.
Nationwide, wait times for surgery and specialist care are 60% longer than they were 15 years ago. A recent Fraser Institute study said nearly 1 million Canadians are on surgical wait lists, and a third of those are at risk of full recovery because of the wait.
To some extent, a two-tier system - free universal public care and for-pay private care - exists in some Albertan sectors, Carpay said, pointing to private insurance for things like dentistry, eyeglasses and therapeutic massage.
A two-tier system was something of a political hot potato in the 2012 provincial election, with the Wildrose seeking provincial funds for out-of-province services for wait-listed Albertan patients under a proposed guaranteed wait time.
Scott Hennig, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said his organization supports Carpay's suit. "We've been waiting for years on this," he said.
Albertans seem to have warmed to the idea, Hennig said, citing studies showing more than 50% of Albertans favor a parallel private health care system, compared to the third in favor when Alberta's Health Care
Protection Act (Bill 11) came in 2001, allowing for-profit corporations to do day surgery procedures.
That concept was initially received with great protest and fear-mongering, he recalled.