Action Needed in Alberta to Protect Patients and Stop Queue Jumping

Friends of Medicare are calling for government action to investigate and eliminate suspected violations of the Canada Health Act in Alberta.

Surveys of hundreds of private health clinics and patients conducted by the Ontario Health Coalition have revealed that extra user fees amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars are threatening access to health care and hurting patients.

“Albertans value the principles of our universal public health care system, that access to care should be based on health needs, not on your ability to pay out of pocket,” said Executive Director Sandra Azocar. “With user fees of hundreds of dollars exposed by these surveys, we need assurances that our provincial and federal governments are taking action to investigate these clinics and end these practices which are likely in violation of the Canada Health Act.”

The Ontario Health Coalition report surveyed 13 clinics in Alberta and found 8 with suspected user fees, ranging from $1775 for mixed medically necessary and unnecessary services, and over $950 for an MRI.

“Private care takes needed doctors and front line staff from the public sector, and as we can see when clinics bill both the public sector and patients, they cost us more,” continued Azocar. “We need a publicly managed solution to wait time issues, like addressing the overuse of referrals and diagnostics that for-profit medicine stands to benefit from.”

“We also need our federal and provincial Ministers to get back to the table on federal funding. Our provinces needed the Canada Health Transfer to be at least 5.2% as recommended by the Parliamentary Budget Office and by health coalitions across Canada,” Azocar added. “The federal government not only has a role to play in ending these extra billing and queue jumping practices, they must recognize their responsibility to ensure our national universal public health care system is adequately funded.”

Download: “Private Clinics and the Threat to Public Medicare in Canada: Results of Surveys with Private Clinics and Patients” – Ontario Health Coalition - June 10, 2017