By Karen Palmer
Your care’s not covered by OHIP?
Company will loan what you need
Ten years ago, Ann Kaplan took a look at the health-care sector and started thinking about loans.
She predicted people would skip the country’s ailing, chronically cash-strapped public health system if they could be treated faster somewhere else, but she also knew they’d need a way to pay for it.
Now, after paying the bills of some 65,000 patients, Kaplan is at the forefront of private health care, just as a Supreme Court ruling is opening the door to private health insurance.
“I don’t think people will necessarily jump at (private health care), but when they anticipate they will need it, or when they need it, people will look at it,” she said yesterday.
Kaplan runs Medicard Finance Inc., a financing company devoted to funding medical procedures. After approving a loan application, the company pays the patient’s bills in return for monthly payments of 2 per cent of the total bill, with interest starting at 9.95 per cent.
Although the company mostly funds cosmetic surgery, laser eye surgery, veterinary expenses and dental bills, Kaplan says it has also paid for fertility treatments and MRI images.
She predicts the Supreme Court decision will bring more franchise clinics and physicians will start offering more non-OHIP services and more private-pay options. “If you build it, people will come,” she said.
On Thursday the court determined that it is unconstitutional to ban private insurance where the public system fails to provide reasonable service.
Private health-care options in the GTA are limited to fertility treatment clinics; a couple of general clinics that offer services to people, such as new immigrants, who aren’t OHIP-insured; and the swanky downtown Medcan Clinic, which uses a third-party referral loophole to offer expensive employee physicals to companies.
But the province will probably see an explosion in innovative private-care options, predicts professor Brian Golden, a health sector strategist at U of T’s Rotman School of Management
He said a parallel system funded by private insurance would act as a pressure valve for the public system and force it to work harder to satisfy patients.
“We’ve got insatiable demand,” he said. “What this will do is attract greater resources into the system and make it more attractive for some physicians to continue practising in Canada; it will decrease the burden on nurses.”