FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2011
TORONTO - The Ontario government has taken a positive step by taking action on illegal user fees in private health clinics in the province.
“We are happy to see Minister Matthews and the Ontario government take a leadership role to stop illegal user fees in private clinics,” said Dr. Danielle Martin, chair of the board for Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “We urge provincial governments across the country to take similar action to protect patients from extra billing.”
Canadian Doctors for Medicare has heard numerous complaints about private clinics charging patients for everything from membership fees to valet parking without explaining that these services are optional. Some patients have reported having to pay for other services, such as nutrition counselling, in order to access medically necessary services covered by OHIP.
It is illegal to link services with fees attached to medically necessary services insured by OHIP, creating an economic barrier for patients who need and are entitled to services. CDM became concerned when a study published this year in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology found that 31.7% of patients in private clinics were being charged for access to colonoscopy services.
“We can’t allow private clinics to take advantage of patients when they are most vulnerable. People should know that fees linked to covered medical services are illegal, and they have the right to say no to any additional costs attached to an OHIP-covered service,” said Martin. While private clinics may offer services at an additional cost, patients are under no obligation to purchase extra goods and services from a private clinic.
The Province announced on Tuesday that it will be setting up a hotline and email address for people who have paid user fees at private clinics, and work to reimburse those patients. The Province will also audit clinics for which it receives a complaint.
Extra billing happens in private clinics across the country, and Canadian Doctors for Medicare is calling on provincial governments from coast to coast to stop these illegal practices. CDM is also calling on the federal government to meet its obligations in enforcing the Canada Health Act.
Canadian Doctors for Medicare provides a voice for Canadian doctors who want to strengthen and improve Canada's universal publicly-funded health care system. CDM advocates for innovations in treatment and prevention services that are evidence-based and improve access, quality, equity and sustainability.
For more information:
Alissa Von Bargen, Project Manager, Canadian Doctors for Medicare