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Normandin Beaudry

The implications of the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 9, 2005


There, in black and white

NB Bulletin Vol. 8 N. 11, July 2005

On June 9, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down two sections of Quebec’s health legislation, thus allowing individuals to purchase private health insurance to cover medical treatments already covered by Quebec’s public health insurance plan.

For more information about the facts, you may consult the newsletter written by our strategic partner Hewitt: Hewitt Research Advisory.

In the following, our main focus is on the aspects that are still unclear in order to assess the implications of the decision, and what can be done in terms of planning and assessing your own situation while waiting for clarification concerning these aspects.

Grey areas  

  • The Quebec government has made a request to the Court for a stay of execution in regard to the decision. Will it be granted the 18-month implementation delay it is seeking?
  • The Supreme Court of Canada stated that, where there is a "lack of timely health care", patients have a right to purchase private insurance for health services already available under Quebec’s public health care plan. However, "timely" has not yet been clearly defined.
  • Reimbursements for medical procedures covered by medicare do not currently possess any advantageous tax treatments. With the Supreme Court decision, this is now an important issue. Effectively, a group insurance plan that covers this type of care would no longer comply with certain provisions of the federal Income Tax Act, resulting in an employer’s entire health care plan being disqualified for tax purposes. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what position the Canada Revenue Agency takes on this matter.
  • To date, insurers are unable to assess the implications of this decision. Most are waiting to see what the government decides to do before formulating an opinion.

In the meantime...  

  • Although a private system may already exist for some services (blood tests, other tests like MRIs), the Supreme Court decision offers the possibility of covering other types of procedures. It is important to review all the documentation relating to your group insurance plan (insurance contract, employee booklets and collective agreements) to ensure private services are not automatically covered.
  • Although this decision does not make any radical changes to our health care system as of yet, but it might be a good idea to start preparing for the possibility of a private health care system in the future: What would your position be if this happened?

The Supreme Court decision also offers some opportunities: for example, employees who are off work while waiting for medical treatment would have access to certain types of surgery in the private system which could get them back on the job quicker.

Obviously, there remains several aspects that are unclear. Over the coming months, the implications of this decision and, more specifically, its impact on group insurance plans will begin to take shape. We will keep you informed of any developments.


Please feel free to contact us for additional information.

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