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HomePolicy Articles Article Summary

Bad Medicine: Trade Treaties, Privatization and Health Care Reform in Canada

Report by Jim Grieshaber-Otto, Scott Sinclair

Jim Grieshaber-Otto and Scott Sinclair examine a central and recurring theme in Canada’s health care debate: whether private financing and for-profit delivery of health care should play a greater role. They contend that exploring Canada’s international trade-treaty obligations as well as the scope of exemptions for health care under those treaties, add a critical dimension to this important debate. Their findings lead them to suggest that Canada’s trade treaty commitments threaten to make commercializing reforms much more difficult and costly to reverse.

The authors analyze three recent reports on the future of health care in Canada: the Mazankowski Report; the Kirby Report; and, the Romanow Report. Grieshaber-Otto and Sinclair examine how implementing the recommendations made in these reports could interact with Canada’s trade and investment treaty obligations. In particular, they contend that NAFTA and GATS could “lock-in” privatization and market-oriented health care reforms, and impede the expansion of medicare.

Canada’s medicare system is at odds with the principles of so-called free trade treaties. By establishing a public sector health insurance monopoly, the Canada Health Act cuts against the grain of trade and investment liberalization. According to Grieshaber-Otto and Sinclair, Canada’s health care system is only partially shielded from the force of free trade treaties, despite assurances that it is not at risk. They identify many risks to Canadian health care, and conclude with recommendations for more secure health care reform, including halting any privatization of health care services.

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Policy Publication Details

Author(s): Jim Grieshaber-Otto; Scott Sinclair;
Publisher: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives [ Visit Website ]
Year Published: 2004; Publisher Type: Research Institute
Publicly Available: Yes Research Focus: National;
Registration Required: No Language: English
Payment Required: No Publication Format: Adobe PDF

Subjects / Categories:

Policy Articles / Health Care / Reform
Policy Articles / Health Care / Privatization
Policy Articles / International Trade, Development & Finance / North American Free Trade Agreement
Policy Articles / International Trade, Development & Finance / World Trade Organization
Policy Articles / International Trade, Development & Finance / General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
Policy Articles / Health Care / Reform / 2004
Policy Articles / Health Care / Privatization / 2004
Policy Articles / International Trade, Development & Finance / General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) / 2004
Policy Articles / International Trade, Development & Finance / North American Free Trade Agreement / 2004
Policy Articles / International Trade, Development & Finance / World Trade Organization / 2004
Policy Articles / Health Care
Policy Articles / International Trade, Development & Finance


Keywords / Tags:

health care reform; impact of trade treaties on health care system; medicare; privatization of health care services; Canada's treaty obligations;