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Medical Reform Group Press Release Regarding Provincial Elections

August 29, 1990

In order to clarify the perspectives of the 3 main Ontario political parties towards health issues, the Medical Reform Group of Ontario submitted the enclosed questionnaire to the three parties (See appended, with replies). The MRG is a non-partisan organisation whose first founding principle is that health care with universal access is a right. In this press conference we highlight the differences among the three main parties on various issues. Though the Liberal Party did not respond its actions serve as a guide.

THE ROLE OF USER FEES AND "ADMINISTRATIVE CHARGES"
We note the recent re-emergence in the media of user fees as a proposed means to regulate access to health care and to cut costs. Studies have shown that user fees deter the needy and poor from seeking appropriate health care. We also note that the recent Lowy Commission (Pharmaceutical Enquiry) proposes implementing prescription co-payment charges up to $250 per year. The MRG strongly urges rejection of user fees in any guise.

The Liberal Government has taken steps towards abolition of user fees i.e. Bill 94 which bans Extra-Billing. However, we view with alarm the Liberals' intent to charge user fees for services supposedly outside the health care sector i.e. chronic care facilities. Furthermore, the Liberals have as yet made no attempt to prosecute physicians who currently violate Bill 94.

The Progressive Conservative Party has rejected any role for user fees in their reply to us. However, we note a contradiction between this, and Michael Harris' media remarks on the benefits of user fees. We are concerned that this vacillation may presage an unacceptable future endorsement of user fees by the PCP. Moreover, the PCP made no commitment at all on administrative charges, a form of extra-billing.

The New Democratic Party appears to be the only party consistently against user fees. They are also explicitly against administrative charges. They do note that in consultation with the medical profession they would be prepared to include some currently uninsured services within the schedule for billing. This closes the loopholes in Bill 94.


POVERTY AND ITS IMPACT ON HEALTH

Noting the many documented links between poverty and ill health, the MRG advocates significant poverty relief measures.

The Liberal Government has actually cut assistance to food banks. It has, moreover, not made any commitment to increasing the level of the minimum wage.

The Progressive Conservative Party would reverse the cuts in the food bank programme. They make no commitment on minimum wages.

The New Democratic Party would also reverse the cuts to the food banks. But in addition they would enhance the current minimum wage.

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