The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Alberta ban on private health insurance challenged in Calgary court

  • Print

CALGARY - Alberta's ban on private insurance for medically necessary services is being challenged in a Calgary court.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is supporting two men who say they were forced to pay out-of-pocket to get health care they needed in the United States.

They say 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.

"Darcy Allen was deprived of his (Charter) Section 7 rights of security of person," said centre lawyer John Carpay.

He said Alberta's out-of-country health services committee also failed to reimburse Cross, who sought treatment for back pain in Arizona when no such treatment was available in Canada.

"The out-of-country health services committee is not functioning as a safety valve for people waiting too long for health care," he said.

Carpay wants a 2005 Supreme Court of Canada decision expanded to Alberta. That decision struck 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.

Allen was forced to give up his dental practice in Okotoks, Alta., in 2009 due to what he says was extreme, debilitating and continuous back pain. He eventually paid $77,503 for back surgery in Montana.

He said what started in 2007 as a seemingly minor injury from playing hockey turned into around-the-clock pain that made normal tasks such as shovelling snow or tying shoelaces impossible. Allen finally received a referral for surgery in 2009, but no operation could be performed until September 2010. Then his anticipated surgery date was pushed back to June 2011.

"I'm hoping eventually that we can find a way to make this system work more efficiently," Allen said outside court.

"I don't want to see anyone go through what I did. I was able to push myself through the system fairly rapidly and even at two years that is still a year-and-a-half too long for somebody in my position."

Allen said this is not about the money he spent.

"If that door opens at some time in the future and I'm able to recover some of the costs that would be great, but that is not the purpose of this," he said.

"This is a matter of trying to get better access to health care for everybody that's out there."

The other complainant is Cross, a businessman from Calgary, who says he lived in a state of severe and continuous pain from 2006 until 2010 when he received back surgery in Arizona.

His request to have the $24,236 cost reimbursed to him was denied by Alberta's out-of-country health services appeal panel, which ruled the surgery he had was available in Canada.

Justice centre spokeswoman Carol Crosston said have access to a waiting list is not the same thing as access to health care.

"If we can help more individuals get access to care then that is what this is all about."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Glenn January won't blame offensive line for first loss

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the city grant mosquito buffer zones for medical reasons only?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google