A new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows that Canada’s health care system is already more exposed to the rules of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) than anyone has been led to believe.
Author Matthew Sanger has uncovered an incredible fact: Canada’s negotiators have erred by listing “health insurance” under the GATS national treatment and market access rules. The result is that any attempt by Canida to strengthen public health care is exposed to trade challenges. Secretive trade panels may play a larger role in determining domestic health policy than public debate and government policy making by democratically elected members of government.
Restriction of the expansion of Medicare will hinder any attempt to deal with a pending crisis in home care services through a national home care program or any attempt to deal with the single greatest cost driver in health care, the high cost of drugs, through a universal pharmacare program. Both programs were recommendations of the National Forum on Health.
The emerging area of data processing and on-line information retrieval is also covered by the GATS rules. This means that foreign companies could access health information from outside the country lowering corporate costs and threatening the privacy of health records.
The report concludes that it is not too late to protect health care. The Canadian government could insist on a permanent general exception for health care that would apply to all WTO members. Sanger lists a series of actions that citizens must insist the government take in upcoming GATS negotiations.
More information on this report is available at: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives