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Quebecers To Choose Private Health-Care Insurance

A controversial set of laws was initiated by Quebec Health Minister Philippe Couillard on Thursday that would give Quebecers the option of private health-care insurance //.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision had partially struck down Quebec's ban on private insurance, on June 9, 2005,ruling that Quebec had failed to prove its ban on private health insurance, for acts covered by medicare, was justified. However with the development of Bill 33, proposed by Couillard, people can pay out of their own pockets for a limited list of surgeries that includes cataract, knee and hip surgeries.

Therefore, if the provincial government should decide to expand the list it can do so with a simple rule change rather than amending the law in the national assembly.

Couillard said, ‘The legislation is very heavy. It's a process that could take a year, a year and a half.’

Couillard’s suggestion that changes to the list of procedures would be accompanied by a parliamentary commission outraged opposition parties who charged that he was trivializing the national assembly.

Many had interpreted the Supreme Court’s decision that Quebec should allow private insurance. However the government only announced a middle course in February, which proposed that private insurance could be sold for knee and hip replacements and cataract surgeries.

Doctors choosing to practice in private clinics would be restricted to work outside the medicare system and could not go back and forth once they left the public system.

The change is accompanied by a provincial guarantee to access to health-care services.

If the public system cannot provide elective surgery in time, medicare can now pay for operations in private, non-medicare clinics.

According to Couillard earlier waiting times for cataract operations in Quebec have been cut by two-thirds. He voiced his doubts as to the success of the private health insurance opt ion and its attraction to most Quebecers and multinational health care organizations.

Couillard said, ‘It's possible in theory, but in practice I don't believe that will happen.’

Provinces like British Columbia and Alberta also plan to follow Quebec's private health insurance process.

The federal government is said to be mulling its own guarantee to access health-care services.

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