Government Needs to Take Clear Action to End Blurred Lines for Private Clinics

NOV 28, 2017

Government Needs to Take Clear Action to End Blurred Lines for Private Clinics

Friends of Medicare are calling for Alberta's Ministry of Health to take clear action to protect patients and the public from profit driven private clinics in light of the release of the Parkland Institute's report Blurred Lines: Private Membership Clinics and Public Health Care today.

"This report shows clinics charging yearly fees from $3,000 to nearly $5,000 while implying better and quicker health services," said Executive Director Sandra Azocar. "Albertans value our public health care system because it is supposed to treat us equally. Patient need should determine access to health care, not patient wallet size. Minister Hoffman needs to assure the public that these grey areas of operation will not be allowed to continue."

The report highlights the financial incentives to provide unnecessary referrals for services used by the public system like diagnostics, which are tying up resources that should be used for medical need.

"While we ultimately want to see an end to exclusive membership fee driven clinics, we believe that there needs to be transparency and accountability of their operations while they exist," added Azocar. "These clinics still receive public funding for the insured services they provide, and the public has the right to know how they are operating, and who is benefiting. We don't know enough about this situation because of a serious lack of monitoring of clinic fees and practices, as well as alarmingly inadequate auditing processes as identified in the Parkland Institute report. A BC audit was able to uncover astounding fees and double billing practices at the Cambie Surgery Centre and we need to be assured that is not happening at any of these clinics here."

A 2012 audit of Cambie Surgery Centre in BC showed 205 cases of extra-billing amounting to half a million dollars in just 30 days, while on top of that $66,000 was billing to the BC government's Medical Services Plan in those 30 days.

"The report also highlights a gap in accountability, where no penalties exist for doctors or clinics found to be violating the Canada Health Act," continued Azocar. "Patients deserve better protection in Alberta. We hope this report acts as an eye opener for governments here in Alberta and in Ottawa to motivate better regulation, monitoring, and enforcement of the principles of a universal public health care system."

"We are in agreement with many of the recommendations of the report, including the key suggestion to bring diagnostic services under our public insurance plan," concluded Azocar. "At the same time the province should put a moratorium on new clinics opening while public solutions to patient care and wait time challenges are implemented to the benefit of all Albertans. A change in government should mean a change in approach to expensive and exclusive private care."