BC Health Coalition

BC Health Coalition
Canadian Doctors for Medicare

Canadian Doctors for Medicare

August 20, 2012 14:00 ET

Doctors, Patients, and Other Public Health Care Advocates Call for Action on Illegal Billing

Deadline to Clinics to Stop Illegal Billing Expires

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Aug. 20, 2012) - Public health care advocates are calling on the B.C. and federal governments to end illegal billing practices at private clinics. At a news conference held outside the Cambie Surgery Centre today advocates called for immediate action due to the shocking results of a recent audit of Vancouver's Cambie and Specialist Referral Clinics.

The Medical Services Commission of B.C. (MSC) audit report, released July 18, 2012, found that almost $500,000 in extra-billing had taken place at the Cambie Surgery Centre and the Specialist Referral Centre - at least $66,000 of which appeared to be double billing. This means that in addition to collecting these fees from the patient, a claim was also made for payment from the Medical Services Plan (MSP).

"There are avenues available to both provincial and federal governments to put a stop to illegal billing - we need to be able to trust that our governments will uphold the law and deter the continuation of these practices," says Dr. Bob Woollard, founding member of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

Woollard pointed to the responsibility of the federal government to enforce the provisions of the Canada Health Act, which stipulates that the federal government shall withhold one dollar of cash transfer for every dollar collected through direct patient charges - a penalty Woollard says should be imposed in a case such as Cambie, where illegal extra billing has been found.

"By not enforcing the Canada Health Act and provincial legislation to its fullest extent, the federal government and the provinces are fostering a two-tier health care system," said Dr. Vanessa Brcic, executive member of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

The MSC has extensive powers to ensure compliance with the province's public health care laws, including cancelling the enrollment of doctors engaged in illegal billing and forcing doctors or clinics to refund charges to patients, but the Commission has not yet indicated its intent to act beyond seeking an injunction.

Rachel Tutte, co-chair of the BC Health Coalition, said that the MSC gave the clinics 30 days to stop these illegal practices, or the Commission would seek an injunction. The deadline has now expired - a deadline a spokesperson for the clinics claimed they would ignore - and the group is calling on the MSC to act swiftly.

"The audit revealed that these clinics are charging people to jump the queue for surgeries and then are subsidizing their profits with public funds by billing both the patient as well as the province through MSP," said Tutte.

"For-profit clinics extend public wait times, rather than alleviate them, by draining health care professionals from our public facilities," added Tutte. "Now they're draining public funds as well. Not only are these clinics a threat to our health by lengthening wait times, they're a threat to our wallets."

The report also indicates that when patients are being illegally billed for services, it was often at rates far greater than allowed under the MSP tariff - in some cases up to 500 percent. In one typical example, a patient was billed $7,215.00 (in advance) for services for which the tariff allows only $1,288.04.

Click here to access the MSC audit report (http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/msp/legislation/pdf/srccsc-audit-report-2012.pdf).

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