Public Values

US investor threatens first ever healthcare suit

Will cite provincial private clinics as unfair competition.

Author Luke Eric Petersonby Luke Eric Peterson

Successive governments — both Liberal and Conservative — have long insisted that Canadian trade negotiators succeeded in "grandfathering" medicare under the North American Free Trade Agreement. In other words, our health care system — at least as it stood in 1994 when the NAFTA came into force — is beyond the reach of foreign insurance companies and HMOs seeking to re-model it after the US system.

What's less clear, however, is whether the ongoing flirtation by various provinces with greater private financing and delivery of certain forms of health care is slowly eroding Canada's legal defences.

At least one American citizen is keen to find out.

In mid-July, Melvin J Howard, an Arizona businessman, filed legal papers that have set in motion a process that could lead to formal arbitration against Canada under provisions of the NAFTA that permit foreign investors to sue governments for certain investment losses.

Mr Howard claims that he and some 200 financial backers tried for several years to take advantage of an increasing openness in British Columbia to private involvement in the health care system. But after encountering what they describe as anti-American roadblocks in a series of municipalities, Mr Howard's partners elected to pull the plug on plans to construct a private surgical centre. They claim to have incurred $4 million in expenses along the way, and they want the Feds to compensate them for these losses — as well as for another $150 million representing their foregone profits. . .

Links and sources
  U.S. Investor Threatens First Ever Health Care Suit, by Luke Eric Peterson, Embassy, September 17, 2008

Posted: September 18, 2008

  Health care
  Public services
  Voices of privatization

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