Mr. L. M. Brand (Saskatoon):
Mr. Speaker, on Monday, February 12, the Prime Minister made a statement in the house regarding the 27053-4901
Proceedings on Adjournment Motion implementation of medicare. In part, and as reported at page 6599 of Hansard, he said: Today it remains the concern of the federal government to find the best way in which federal and provincial action can most effectively contribute, once the present legislation has come into effect, to achieve a practical medical care program available to as many Canadians as possible as soon as possible.
He went on to state that the act, with all its ramifications, will come into effect on July 1 of this year, and that at the outset only one or two provinces would participate since only one or two had satisfied the criteria set down by the government of Canada. The province of Saskatchewan will be one of those provinces, Mr. Speaker, and it certainly qualifies under the criteria because since 1962 the government of Saskatchewan has had in effect a comprehensive medical care program.
Coming into the scheme with only one other province, and perhaps another one or two, it cannot of course hope to meet the requirements of portability since the question comes to mind as to where and with whom can such a plan be portable. However, that seems to be beside the point, and I await with interest how the present government plans or intends to implement this particular part of the medicare criteria.
However, Mr. Speaker, as I read the Prime Minister's remarks it does seem clear that the Prime Minister wishes federal funds to be used to provide medical care for citizens of our individual qualifying provinces; but nowhere has the government stated unequivocally that the funds to be provided for medical care to the provinces will be grants conditional upon their use for the provision of payment of physicians' services or other essential portions of the medical care program.
As a consequence, Mr. Speaker, on March 12 I asked the Minister of National Health and Welfare whether the money designated for Saskatchewan under the medical care program becoming effective July 1 would be designated for use for medical care only. I asked this question for a very valid reason indeed. Under the medical care legislation passed in Saskatchewan in 1962, the government of Saskatchewan has the power to introduce deterrent fees or other fiscal measures designed to deter citizens from making use of the medical care plan, and thus save the government money.
March 18, 1968
Proceedings on Adjournment Motion
Recently in Saskatchewan the government has stated that the costs of medicare are rising so rapidly that it would be necessary to introduce a deterrent fee of $1.50 per patient per office visit in order to save approximately $5 million which the government-and I quite believe this-claims it does not have. This money is necessary to meet the increase in costs of medical care in Saskatchewan. This deterrent fee will start on April 15. In addition, Mr. Speaker, $2.50 will be charged the average patient for every day that he is in hospital.
Since it seems obvious that such catastrophic deterrent fees will penalize those who are least able to pay, surely it is equally obvious that if this government will state unequivocally that the grants for medical care are conditional upon their use for medical care only in the province of Saskatchewan and other provinces, this will obviate the necessity for the introduction of this deterrent fee.
Since the amount coming to Saskatchewan in one year will be somewhere in the $12 million to $14 million range, this would mean that this year somewhere in the neighbourhood of $6 million would be available for the people of Saskatchewan and would save them from the imposition of deterrent fees. It would also save them from the burden of additional double taxation.
An answer at this time from the minister, or from his charming parliamentary secretary, would mean a great deal not only to the people of our province but to the people of every province. It would prevent an indiscriminate use of medical care funds for the purpose of balancing provincial budgets which have been overburdened by other expenditure on such things as highways, public buildings and the like. So I ask the minister through his parliamentary secretary to do the people of Saskatchewan a favour and assure them that the federal medical care funds will be used and designated for the purpose for which they were intended, namely the provision of medical care for the people not only of Saskatchewan but in every part of Canada.
[DOT] (10:10 p.m.)
Topic: HEALTH AND WELFARE-SASKATCHEWAN- RESTRICTION ON FEDERAL CONTRIBUTION UNDER MEDICARE