Ottawa (2 Feb. 2022) — An updated profile of Medavie Inc. shows that the company is still heavily involved in the privatization of health care services. Since the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) published its original profile of Medavie 4 years ago, the company has expanded both the range of privatized services it operates and the number of communities where it operates.
Among the areas that Medavie has expanded into are mental health services, vaccination services, and virtual health care. The last one is through a platform called Connected Care operated by Medavie Blue Cross that directs customers to private, for-profit virtual health care companies.
Problems with privatized ambulance services
In the last 2 years serious problems have emerged in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with how Medavie has controlled ambulance services
In New Brunswick, the auditor general reported that Medavie was able to profit from a paramedic shortage and get an extra $8 million through the “excessive use” of exemptions to staffing requirements. The auditor general also expressed concern about the conflict of interest in having the same person as CEO of both EM/ANB, the New Brunswick government-controlled corporation that contracts out the management of ambulance service, and Medavie Health Services New Brunswick Inc.
In Nova Scotia, Medavie’s response to an injured man having to wait over 3 hours for an ambulance was to tell its employees not to tell other emergency services where ambulances were being dispatched from.
Virtual health care partnership a throw-back to pre-Medicare days
Under the partnerships between insurance companies like Medavie Blue Cross and private, for-profit virtual health care companies, insurance companies cover the cost of user fees for virtual health care services. This takes us back to the way health care in Canada worked before Medicare — and the way health care still works in the United States. To get treatment, people had to be able to have enough money to pay user fees or have private health insurance to cover them.
In a report on virtual health care and privatization that NUPGE released in December 2021, it pointed to the need to develop virtual health care as part of the public system. The way insurance companies like Medavie Blue Cross are profiting from the privatization of virtual health care shows that unless virtual health care services are part of the public system, there is a danger that, increasingly, access to health care will be based on the ability to pay.
Still lots of secrecy and no accountability
Even though Medavie receives over $1 billion a year in public funds, the board refuses to release financial statements. New members of Medavie’s Board of Directors are picked by the existing board — so they are only accountable to the other 11 members of the Board of Directors. And Medavie is not subject to freedom of information legislation.
This means that when there are problems, it is very hard for the public to know just how serious they are and even harder to get them fixed.