Thursday, June 07, 2007

On non-enforcement

In keeping with the recent discussions about health care, the Globe and Mail reports on the enforcement (or lack thereof) of the Canada Health Act in 2006. And while it's bad enough that only one insubstantial fine was ordered against B.C., even that insignificant penalty only highlights the fact that Tony Clement has utterly refused to allow his department to do anything to uphold the Canada Health Act on its own:
Only one province, British Columbia, was fined last year for violating Canada's Health Act after private surgical clinics there charged user fees to patients, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail under the Access to Information Act.

The lack of penalties - the B.C. fine was only $29,019 - comes despite federal government concerns about the proliferation of private clinics across the country. The Health Canada documents reveal a list of 33 for-profit MRI clinics operating in six provinces, and the government worries that if appropriate safeguards are not in place, patients could receive preferred access to medically necessary services by paying out of pocket...

Fining only one province for Canada Health Act violations is in contrast to previous years, when several provinces have been hit with financial penalties. In 2004-2005, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and B.C. were fined more than $78,000 in total...

Every year, (the federal government) writes to the provinces and territories asking whether they are entitled to a full cash transfer payment. Financial statements are then requested 21 months later to confirm the actual amounts of extra billing and user charges that occurred during that fiscal year, according to a memo sent to the federal deputy health minister.

In this case, it was the B.C. government that said private surgical clinics charged $720 for extra billing and $28,298.68 for user charges in 2003-2004, according to a memorandum to Health Minister Tony Clement dated Feb. 24, 2006. Consequently, a deduction of $29,019 was made to B.C.'s health transfer by March 31, 2006.
The existence of any fine might make it sound like there's at least some sign of life in federal enforcement. But it turns out that the lone penalty was based on B.C.'s own self-reporting - once again suggesting that the Cons aren't the least bit interested in verifying that federal public funds get spent according to federal rules.

Of course, today's news is entirely consistent with the Cons' habit of relying on nothing but the word of the same provincial Health Ministers who are responsible for any violations. But for those Canadians who don't share the view that laws about public health care are made to be broken, the report only makes it all the more clear that the Cons can't be trusted with Canada's health care system.

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