The Depressing Future of American Health Care


If you want a preview of the future of American health care, just look to Canada.

In 1997, Jacques Chaouilli, MD, a family physician in Montreal, Quebec, decided he could no longer tolerate seeing his patients suffer—sometimes die—lingering on waiting lists for treatment and/or specialty care. He started a private emergency housecall service that got shut down by the government because of its prohibition of private health care. He then decided to challenge Canada’s law prohibiting patients from seeking—and doctors from providing—private health care outside of the government run single-payer monopoly health care system.

Dr. Chaouill had difficulty finding any lawyers willing to take his case, so he eventually decided to represent himself. He embarked on his own independent study of law, and eventually, got accepted into the Montreal University School of Law. After getting into numerous debates with his professors over the interpretation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom (analogous to the U.S. Bill of Rights), he left law school, and pursued his legal education independently.

Ultimately, after many years, his efforts bore fruit. A lower-level court had ruled that Dr. Chaouilli was correct in contending that the prohibition of private health care violated ones rights to “life, liberty, and security,” as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedom, but that the development of a two-tiered medical system was unacceptable to the Canadian vision of “equality.”

In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada heard Dr. Chaouilli’s appeal, and ruled that the Canadian single-payer system led to situations whereby patients suffer and die on government waiting lists, in violation of their rights guaranteed by both the Canadian and the Quebec Charters of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the prohibition of a parallel private medical system in addition to the government mandated single-payer system.

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