The Conservative government is poised to unveil a landmark bill next week that will create a free-market system for the NHS, including a system where patients are billed based on the cost of a service, rather than on their health.
The bill is part of a larger agenda to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system, and is expected to be tabled in the coming days.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is expected at the start of the legislative session next week to introduce legislation that will establish a single, unified payment system for health care, the Conservatives said Wednesday.
The Conservatives also said they would introduce legislation to repeal the Conservative government’s so-called “Canadian Health Act” and establish a national healthcare commission.
The act, which the Conservatives campaigned on as an alternative to the existing federal health-care system, was struck down by the Supreme Court last week after an eight-year battle.
Conservative MPs voted in favour of scrapping the act this week, which they say is a step forward for Canada’s healthcare infrastructure.
The government, however, is also considering repealing the bill, which would be a significant step back for Canada, experts say.
“I think it’s the wrong direction for Canada and it’s going to be very hard for Canada to recover from it,” said Paulson College health economist Paul Zuk, who has studied health care policy for decades.
“We’re in a transition phase, we’re seeing that the system is crumbling, and the government is going to have to do something really big.”
But there are signs that the government will soon start to move on.
“The Conservatives are coming around on health care,” said Zuk.
“There are things they can do and they should do.”
In his speech Wednesday, Scheer will also commit to reforming the way the federal government pays for the public system, including the amount Canadians can receive in government payments, as well as a proposal to require employers to pay for employee health insurance, including maternity and newborn care.
In addition, he will introduce legislation allowing the government to issue a single health-insurance card for everyone, allowing Canadians to buy private insurance for themselves or their family members.
“It is not just about the economy,” said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
“That’s a big issue for Canadians and we’ve been fighting for this for a long time.”
The NDP government introduced the bill in May 2015, saying it was designed to protect Canadians from unfair government pricing, and that it would create a single universal health-payment system.
Health experts say the bill would create an environment in which health-based pricing could be enforced, and allow for more transparent government pricing for health services.
“They will be making the most of a political opportunity to repeal this act,” said Dr. Paul Ehrlich, chief executive of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
“This is a great opportunity for the Conservatives to try to get the best value for Canadians, and they have a real opportunity to make Canada a better country.”
A number of other major policy changes have been introduced over the last few years, including changes to the taxation system and the way businesses pay for their services.
Many of those changes are expected to take place over the next few months.
The legislation will also be a major legislative change for Scheer.
He’s seen as a strong advocate of smaller government and a moderate Conservative, but his party has already been accused of spending too much money on election campaigns, and a lot of it was spent by his former chief of staff, Pamela Wallin.
Conservative MP Kevin Lamoureux, the party’s health critic, said he expected the bill to be signed by Scheer next week.
“He’s going in with a good plan and it will create an exciting opportunity for Canadians to see what Canada’s going through,” Lamouraux said.