11/22/2012 01:11 EST | Updated 01/22/2013 05:12 EST

Nova Scotia health bill would address issues minister says aren't a problem

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia has introduced new legislation aimed at prohibiting queue jumping, extra billing and user fees, although the province's health minister said those issues aren't a problem.

In a news conference Thursday, David Wilson said the new Insured Health Services Act would also eliminate reimbursements for services provided outside the province's health insurance plan.

He said the move is intended to prevent potential problems rather than stamp out any shortcomings in the health system.

"This new act will strengthen the government's commitment to a single-tier publicly funded health care system in Nova Scotia," said Wilson.

The new legislation would replace the 39-year-old Health Services and Insurance Act, which set guidelines for the province's health insurance program.

Ian Johnson, vice-chairman of the Nova Scotia Citizens Health Care Network, said the new legislation builds on similar measures taken by British Columbia in 1996 and Ontario in 2004. He described it as a "pre-emptive strike" against further incursions to the public system by for-profit private clinics.

But Progressive Conservative health critic Chris d'Entremont, a former health minister, said the legislation appears to try to fix problems that don't exist and doesn't address real problems affecting health care.

"Patients are waiting far too long for surgeries and this bill does nothing to fix that," he said.

The Canada Health Act, passed in 1984, prohibits provinces from implementing user fees if they want to qualify for federal funding.