When “One Size Fits All” Doesn’t

By Albert Conforzi | October 29, 2012

Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer Albert Conforzi: When we look at our health care system, we Canadians can be smug at times, especially when we compare ourselves to our neighbours to the south.

Universal health care most definitely has its benefits. As the saying goes, “the measure of a great society is the manner in which it treats the least of its members.” Canada does very well on that side of the ledger sheet.

The other side, however, is that our vast geographic size, combined with our relatively small population, reduces economies of scale on such things as research and development. Further, the size of the population means that any complex medical problem that arises here has usually been seen ten times more frequently down south.

I have always understood that there were instances when OHIP would fund necessary surgery in the U.S. In order for this to happen, your family physician would have to submit a request for out of province surgery.

I was surprised to hear that this is no longer the case:

As of April 1, 2011, patients had to find a specialist to request out-of-country care. Prior to that, family physicians could do so. And if a specialist in this province says they can perform the procedure, then OHIP coverage outside the country will automatically be denied.

How many specialists here do you think will say that they can’t do something that is being done in the US?

By shifting the request away from the family doctor to the specialist, the government has no doubt seen a significant drop in out-of-country surgery requests. But is such a change aimed at helping people, or is the government more concerned about the bottom line?

As a lawyer, it does not surprise me that such a regulatory change could be quietly made by Order-in-Council. It is frequently done. But as a parent and a taxpayer, I am appalled that this could be done with such little discussion. If you had to choose between a local doctor here who might be learning their techniques at your child’s expense, or seeing a foreign doctor who has a proven track record of success, I’m sure your choice would be the same as mine.

Perhaps rather than subjecting Ontarians to this dilemma, OHIP should consider having an Ontario surgeon attend the surgery in the US to help them gain experience for the future.

Whatever the case, if you feel you need foreign medical assistance, it is very important to consult a legal professional before seeking treatment.

Albert Conforzi is a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm in Toronto. Pace’s personal injury lawyers have been helping accident victims since 1980.