Montreal

No one wants Quebec's limited private health insurance

More than two years after Quebec legalized private medical coverage for select surgeries, the insurance industry says it has not sold a single policy.

Province OK'd private insurance to speed up knee, hip and cataract surgery

More than two years after Quebec legalized private medical coverage for select surgeries, the insurance industry says it has not sold a single policy.

Bill 33 was supposed to allow Quebecers to seek private insurance for faster knee and hip replacements, and cataract surgery.

Yves Millette, senior vice-president of the Canadian Life and Health Insurers' Association, said no one is buying the policies because they are too expensive.

Millette said there is no market for insurance that  covers only three procedures.

"The more you have a larger number of consumers interested, the less the cost will be. So, that's the reason why, if you only focus on a very small number of surgeries, then there is no interest," said Millette.

Top court ordered Quebec to offer private option

The provincial goverment was forced to allow private insurance for some surgery after a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The court ruled that the Quebec government could not prevent people from paying for private insurance for procedures covered under medicare if it is unable to provide timely access to health care.

As a result, the government ammended its health act to allow Quebecers to buy private insurance for three surgical procedures with the longest waiting lists: knee- and hip-replacement surgery, and cataract surgery.

Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc said the province has sped up wait times so much since the court ruling, it's no wonder no one wants to pay for private coverage.

"We have such a good access to the surgeries in Quebec, that the industry knows they won't be able to sell any insurance to anybody," said Bolduc.

Bolduc said nearly all patients seeking knee and hip replacements in the public system now begin treatment within three months compared to the previous waits of nine months or more.

Eric Caire, Action Démocratique du Québec health critic and leadership candidate, said the government deliberately limited the list of insurable treatments to make private insurance obsolete.

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