British Columbia

'It will destroy the system,' says Crown about lawsuit challenging medicare

The B.C. government is making opening arguments in a landmark challege of the public health care system launched by a Vancouver private surgical centre.

B.C. government makes opening arguments in landmark challege of public health care system

The B.C. government is arguing a landmark challenge of the medicare system could undermine the principle of equal medical access for all Canadians. (CBC)

The B.C. government says a lawsuit challenging the public health care system risks propelling the country toward a two-tier model that would undermine the Canadian principle of equal medical access for all.

Crown lawyer Jonathan Penner told a B.C. Supreme Court a legal challenge looking to change the laws around private insurance and doctors' billing practices would create incentives that would drain the public system of workers and likely lengthen patient wait times.

Penner said medicare is designed to preserve a publicly managed, fiscally sustainable system and that the expansion of privatized elements would destroy that structure.

The Cambie Surgery Centre, a private surgical clinic in Vancouver, is suing the B.C. government for stopping doctors from providing medically necessary treatments in both the public and private systems, as well as for forbidding private insurance for core medical services.

A lawyer for the surgery centre has argued that a public-private system would help B.C. curb skyrocketing health care costs by releasing the pressure valve off the public system, freeing resources and shortening wait times.

The province's opening statement is expected to run until tomorrow, and the entire trial is scheduled to run through to February.