The Growing Private-Sector Involvement in Canadian Public Health Care Systems

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This week, the provincial government in Ontario announced that it was expanding the number of private clinics providing medical services.

Right now, Ontario has about 900 such clinics, and they mostly offer medical imaging and cataract surgeries. Sylvia Jones, the province’s health minister, said this week that the government was expanding its program to include hip and knee replacements.

The province is being careful not to violate the Canada Health Act by requiring people to pay for medically necessary procedures. That would jeopardize the 20 billion Canadian dollars the province will receive this year from the federal government for health care. While the clinics will be privately operated, their procedures will be covered under the provincial health care plan as if they had been performed in public hospitals.

Ms. Jones said that the expansion would allow more such procedures to be performed and that doing so would cut wait times for patients. Her critics say it will further undermine the public system, that it may actually increase wait times and that it is a step toward full privatization of health care.

The government’s announcement came at about the same time as the release of a study from the C.D. Howe Institute that does not take a side in the debate but tallies up the level of private health care already in place in Canadian provinces.

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The Growing Private-Sector Involvement in Canadian Public Health Care Systems

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