Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Group Wants Alberta to End 'Health-Care Monopoly',allow Private Health Insurance

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Group Wants Alberta to End 'Health-Care Monopoly',allow Private Health Insurance

Article excerpt

Challenge to Alberta's 'health-care monopoly'

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CALGARY - Alberta's ban on private insurance for medically necessary services is being challenged by a group that says the law ensures a "virtual monopoly" for the government.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is supporting two people who say they were forced to pay out of pocket to get the health care they required in the United States because they couldn't get help in a timely fashion in Alberta's public system.

Dr. Darcy Allen and Richard Cross have filed separate applications in Court of Queen's Bench that question whether the law is constitutional.

"We're saying the current model forces people to suffer in pain on waiting lists and sometimes risk death," lawyer and justice centre founder John Carpay said Tuesday.

"The Supreme Court of Canada recognized that there are people who die on waiting lists, which is why it violates the right to life as well as liberty and security of the person," said Carpay, who is representing the two complainants.

"We're lagging behind other countries like France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland that allow for private health care to co-exist alongside the public system and do not have waiting lists."

Carpay wants expanded to Alberta a 2005 Supreme Court of Canada decision striking down a Quebec law that banned private insurance for medically necessary services.

The case involved Quebec doctor Jacques Chaoulli and his patient George Zeliotis, who argued that the ban on buying private insurance for health care infringed on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as on the Quebec Charter of Rights.

Zeliotis argued his year-long wait for hip replacement in 1997 violated his rights to life, liberty and security as defined under both charters.

"Basically the Supreme Court of Canada has given provincial governments two choices: either you 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 of the government's monopoly system," Carpay said. …

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