“Healthcare is not a free market in Canada, that flies against the principles of our society,” healthcare advocates say
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is dismissing concerns about possible price gouging from private healthcare companies reportedly charging Ontarians hundreds of dollars for COVID-19 tests, suggesting that’s just how capitalism works.
During a press conference Tuesday, Ford faced questions about a private company reportedly offering Ontarians frustrated with long line-ups at the province’s public testing facilities an opportunity to skip the lines with a $400 VIP COVID-19 test.
“My first question is about the private company that is advertising that if you want to avoid the long lines for covid assessment you can pay some $400 and get tested,” asked CityNews’ Cynthia Mulligan.
“I want to ask: How do you personally feel about this? Do you think that private companies should be allowed to offer this? What do you think personally about it?”
“I think it’s a free market society,” Ford replied, before encouraging all Ontarians to “go to the testing centres” and noting some facilities have recently extended their hours to address capacity issues.
Danyaal Raza, Board Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, said Ford’s response was “concerning” for a number of reasons.
“It’s a concerning response that betrays a philosophical approach around who matters in our pandemic response.” Raza told PressProgress. “This pandemic has disproportionately impacted low-income and racialized Ontarians.”
“It’s concerning that in response to a direct question about this $400 test, one marketed to wealthy Ontarians and corporations as a way to skip the line, the Premier chose to be flippant and evasive.”
Many of you may have seen this story yesterday, about a new GTA-based ‘service’ offering at-home COVID swabs for $400 (not a typo). Many, many questions need to be asked here.
Some thoughts below.
— Danyaal Raza (@DanyaalRaza) September 22, 2020
The private service — Home COVID-19 Private Diagnostics, or HCP Diagnostics — says it provide “private, mobile and reliable access to PCR COVID-19 testing at your home, business or office” that offers “peace of mind” for anyone who can afford it.
“Our mobile nursing team will come to you, and administer a PCR COVID-19 test from the comfort of your home or office. You will receive results directly in approximately 24-48 hours.”
The private service is not covered by provincial health insurance. On its website, HCP Diagnostics states that it is “currently searching for public funding and OHIP coverage options.”
HCP Diagnostics did not respond to a request for comment from PressProgress.
Melissa Nicole, a representative of the purported company told BlogTO they offer “a paid service and our target is those that are needing testing for work, essential travel and peace of mind.”
HCP Diagnostics lists no phone number or physical address on its website and no company appears to be incorporated under that name anywhere in Ontario or Canada. The company’s website was created on September 18 using a free website builder called Wix.
K-W testing clinics are overwhelmed. The drive-thru clinic is at capacity, and the Bathurst clinic is (rightly) prioritizing ppl w symptoms & high risk contacts. With ⬆️ cases and a strained test system, we need a revised provincial testing strategy! #onhealth #onpoli @fordnation pic.twitter.com/1pmndutU4w
— Theresa Liu (@TheresaLiuMD) September 23, 2020
Whether or not HCP Diagnostics can be trusted to offer accurate COVID-19 tests, Ontario Health Coalition Executive Director Natalie Mehra said Ford’s response to a company advertising these services is baffling.
“Healthcare is not a free market in Canada,” Mehra told PressProgress. “That flies against the principles of our society.”
“COVID-19 tests are medically necessary, there should be no wild west where private clinics add bells and whistles to sell queue-jumping for private profit.”
While questions remain about HCP Diagnostics, other private health companies are already looking for ways to enter the COVID-19 market.
Wello, a private, for-profit “virtual” health services company owned by Alberta-based Coril Holdings (a major donor of the third-party advertising group Ontario Proud) lobbied the Ford government for COVID-19 contracts earlier this year.