Alberta Must Ban Medical Access Fees

Alberta Must Ban Medical Access Fees

EDMONTON — Today, news broke that a provincial audit has found more than 40 medical clinics advertising membership fees for access to health care. Previous reports from the Parkland Institute and Ontario Health Coalition have shown this is a recurring problem in Alberta that has long gone unaddressed.

“Yet another report shows that medical clinics in Alberta are using membership fees as a barrier to access medically insured services. It’s time for our provincial government to finally stand up for Albertans and act to end this practice,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “Banning access fees would be a chance for the Premier to show her public health guarantee was more than just words, and to keep her promise that no Albertan would ever have to pay out of pocket to access a doctor.”

Last summer, a Calgary clinic informed patients they would be moving to a costly membership system to access their primary care. Health Canada declared the move to be a violation of the Canada Health Act, and the clinic ultimately backed down on the proposal following widespread outcry from Albertans. A private members bill designed to ban access fees was proposed by MLA Gurinder Brar during the last legislative session, but was ultimately defeated by the government.

“Albertans are increasingly worried about their access to their health care, and incidents such as the clinic in Calgary last summer highlight exactly why clear and enforceable legislation is so needed,” said Gallaway. “Unfortunately, we have seen no action from the government to protect patients from these sorts of access fees being charged, instead we’ve seen a growth in clinics using this practice.” 

The growth in the number of clinics charging access fees is occurring at the same time that hundreds of thousands of Albertans are without a family doctor, and growing costs are forcing walk-in clinics and family medicine practices in Alberta to consider closing their doors.

“Our government has a responsibility to ensure that all Albertans have equitable access to the care they need, free of charge through our public Medicare system. And that starts with getting serious about supporting primary care and expanding physician retention and recruitment,” concluded Gallaway.

Friends of Medicare continues to encourage our members and supporters to add their voices to the call to ban medical access fees in Alberta


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